On the surface, Columbia River’s win over Steilacoom to open the Class 2A girls soccer state playoffs appeared to be a success.
The No. 3 seed Rapids claimed a 1-0 win over the No. 14 Sentinels on Wednesday at O’Rourke Field and advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinal round against 2A Greater St. Helens League foe R.A. Long, the only team that has defeated River this season.
But, the defending 2A state champion Rapids were less than pleased with what they considered an uneven effort, and walked away from their post-game huddle thinking about how they can fix those miscues over the next few days of practice.
“Having a win like this — because we didn’t play very good today, we could’ve done a lot better — I think that it will motivate us into the next game on Saturday,” River junior forward Ivy Henderson said.
“I think it was clear that our intensity wasn’t there. We were connecting passes, but there were a few sloppy little mistakes that we’ll definitely clean up and we’ll definitely work on tomorrow at practice.”
Henderson scored River’s lone goal in the fourth minute by striking a header delivered by senior Elise Maffeo from a corner kick into the back of the net.
The Rapids (19-1-1) played direct in the opening minutes against Steilacoom (13-6-1), looking to push the ball to their forwards in hopes of scoring an early goal. Their efforts were rewarded on the set piece.
“We’ve been practicing finishing set pieces so much,” Henderson said, “and to finally get a head on one of our corner kicks, it’s really big for our motivation and to actually making the front post run and the back post run.”
River’s activity picked up to open the second half by earning seven corner kicks leading up to the 60th minute, but the team was unable to create any legitimate scoring chances from them.
“We have a good record for a reason, and I think the biggest thing with this group is, we’ve gotta be consistent with our performances,” River coach Filly Afenegus said. “If we can do that, I’ve told them from the very beginning, I think we can beat anybody in the state. It’s just (a matter of) us having those consistent performances where we’re putting in the effort consistently and executing consistently. Which is always hard, especially this time of year.”
To reach the 2A state playoffs, the Rapids found themselves in a somewhat precarious position last week. R.A. Long dealt River a 1-0 loss in the 2A district semifinals, which meant the Rapids needed to go through Tumwater, a 2A state semifinalist in 2022, to reach state.
River responded with a resounding 4-1 win over Tumwater.
“I think that we learned … we can’t just let off the gas because we beat that team before,” Henderson said of the loss to R.A. Long. “It definitely motivated us, obviously, when we played Tumwater. We realized that we need to actually bring that intensity and finish on all of our opportunities.”
With a grand total of five state titles, the Rapids have set a high standard for themselves as one of the preeminent 2A programs. The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to next week’s state final four, a stage the Rapids have reached in six consecutive seasons.
To get there, they’ll attempt to avenge their lone loss of the season to No. 11 R.A. Long, which claimed a 3-1 road win at No. 6 Sehome on Wednesday. Fellow 2A GSHL teams Ridgefield and Hockinson also advanced to the 2A state quarterfinals.
“They know us very well and we know them very well, so it can become a little bit of a tactical battle,” Afenegus said. “There’s no surprises both ways, really, so it’s just going to be whoever has more effort and whoever is able to execute in that game.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 1, STEILACOOM 0
Goals (assists) — Ivy Henderson (Elise Maffeo)
Halftime — 1-0