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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Feb. 28, 2024

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Ridgefield rolls to 3-0 win over Hockinson to reach 2A girls soccer district championship game

Spudders secure 2A state tournament berth in district semifinal win against Hawks

By , Columbian staff writer

RIDGEFIELD — It didn’t take long for the Ridgefield girls soccer team to settle in and play to its strengths with a Class 2A state tournament berth on the line.

From the opening whistle of Thursday’s 2A district semifinal against Hockinson, Ridgefield went on the attack, scoring first on a Victoria Lasch goal 20 minutes into the half. And with a strong defense backing them, the Spudders continued to push.

“The grit was there, the tenacity was there, and everybody delivered (on) what we said we were going to,” Ridgefield senior center back Ava Kruckenberg said.

Ridgefield’s 3-0 win was indicative of a thorough, 80-minute performance. The Spudders advanced to Saturday’s district championship game against R.A. Long, and secured their place in the 2A state tournament starting next week.

“We’ve just been working really hard at this all year, and I’m proud of everybody,” junior forward Marlee Buffham said.

“It’s really important because we actually came together and we all made strong friendships and strong bonds,” Lasch added. “It’s really helped us connect together.”

Lasch scored first for the Spudders (15-3) on an assist from Ella Rorabaugh, then set up Buffham for a goal off a cross 10 minutes into the second half to give the Spudders a valuable insurance goal to play with for the remaining 30 minutes.

“I just saw an open chance to take it long … and then I saw Marlee open so I just crossed it early,” Lasch said.

Allie Draper put through Ridgefield’s final goal with under five minutes left on an assist from Ellie Petersen.

Hockinson (10-7), which plays Woodland in a winner-to-state, loser-out game Saturday, caught everyone’s attention after pulling off a stunning 1-0 upset over previously-undefeated Tumwater on Tuesday. In that win over the Thunderbirds, Hockinson got a heroic effort from freshman goalkeeper Audrey Armstrong, who preserved a clean sheet after Abby Dombrow’s long-range goal gave the Hawks an early lead.

But Hockinson’s offense was grounded Thursday by a stingy Ridgefield side that has allowed just four goals in regulation and overtime this season.

The Spudders’ starting back line of Madison Ruddy, Nora Martin, Kruckenberg and Marseille Edwards gave the Hawks few clean looks against goalkeepers Tyler Merlock and Gabriela Semlick, each of whom played one half for the Spudders.

The success of the group has been somewhat unexpected, said Kruckenberg, who returned to the Spudders this season after missing her junior year with an ACL injury. Martin, the other center starting center back, recently stepped into the position after playing primarily in the midfield.

“I think that we’ve grown such a close bond and we’re a really tight-knit group at this point, which we haven’t seen the past few years,” Kruckenberg said. “Just being so close, it’s almost like we can read each other’s mind at this point. … From our forwards, to our midfield, to our back line, everything is together, is defensively strong. I like to think we’re a brick wall back there.”

“And our keepers are fantastic too,” Buffham added.

Consistency has been key for the Spudders throughout the season, after they had an up-and-down 2022 campaign that ended in the state quarterfinals. This year, Ridgefield’s only losses have come against Tumwater and Columbia River, the reigning 2A state champion.

Looking to capture its first district championship since 2021, Ridgefield will face an R.A. Long team it has defeated twice this season.

“Last year we struggled a little bit and this year kind of just came together,” Kruckenberg said. “We really just secured what (victory) means to us and what we need to do to achieve that.”