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On grit and a prayer, Ridgefield beats Fife to advance to 2A girls soccer state semifinal

Save by goalkeeper Gabriela Semlick helps Spudders win penalty-kick shootout after 1-1 draw

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
5 Photos
The Ridgefield girls soccer team poses for a team photo after a 2-1 win over Fife on penalty kicks in the Class 2A state quarterfinal match at Fife High School on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023.
The Ridgefield girls soccer team poses for a team photo after a 2-1 win over Fife on penalty kicks in the Class 2A state quarterfinal match at Fife High School on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

FIFE – A lot of grit and a little prayer are sending the Ridgefield girls soccer team back to the Class 2A state semifinals.

Senior Gabriela Semlick came up with the pivotal stop in goal, and Ava Kruckenberg delivered the clinching kick as the Spudders beat Fife 2-1 in a penalty-kick shootout Saturday in a 2A state quarterfinal match at Fife High School.

“We had a shootout with River and they took seven (shots) on me, and I didn’t get any,” Semlick said referring to 2A Greater St. Helens League loss to Columbia River on Oct. 24. “So my coach was like ‘You got to just pick a side and give everything you got.’ So I said a prayer, picked a side and got it.”

Semlick guessed left and smothered a shot by Fife’s Kali Ginnis in the third round of the shootout. That opened the door for Kruckenberg to seal the win in the fifth round.

“Oh my gosh, I mean my legs were shaking, my heart was pounding,” Kruckenberg said. “But I’ve been putting in that work. In training, we have PKs every single day after practice. We all knew exactly what we needed to do, whether it was me or anybody else, I know that ball would have gone into the goal.”

In fact, all five of the Spudders’ PK attempts were good as Kruckenberg was preceded by successful attempts by Tori Lasch, Ella Rorabaugh, Ellie Petersen and Nora Martin.

“We practice them a lot because we knew going into these (state) games that there was a high chance that we’d be going into penalty kicks,” Ridgefield coach Steven Evans said. “We always have confidence in Gaby and hope she’ll save one or two, which she’s done. We want to put it on ourselves. If we put away our five, then hope Gaby will come with that. And she did, which was awesome today.”

The PK shootout followed 90 minutes of intense and competitive soccer, which finished with a flurry in regulation after a scoreless first 74 minutes.

In the 75th minute, Fife mounted a challenge on Rapids’ goal, with Semlick make a diving stop on the Trojans’ first attempt. However, Ariana Vaeao punched in the rebound for a 1-0 lead.

“I know every single one of our hearts, I know my did, just dropped when that ball went in the goal,” Kruckenberg said. “But we knew exactly what we needed to do to come back. Even Steven said … even when they score on us first, we knew we were winning that game. Because that’s what we came here to do.”

Evans is always touting the importance of the first five minutes after a big moment. And the Spudders countered in less than 60 seconds.

Ridgefield pushed the ball forward with Ellie Wilson lofting the ball over a drawn-out Fife keeper for the tying goal in the 76th minute.

“I think our team is really good at working together when it really counts,” Semlick said. “So we didn’t panic. We got the ball up, and we all just pressed on the box.”

Kruckenberg added: “It was just the grit to get down there in the first place.”

Now the Spudders’ grit has them back in the state semifinals. Ridgefield will face Columbia River at 1 p.m. Friday at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.

“Oh my gosh, it feels amazing,” Kruckenberg said. “We haven’t been in this spot .. since our sophomore year. And I just know this was one of the goals we set from the beginning of the year. I mean before preseason, our summer trainings in June, we set this goal for ourselves ‘We are making it to the final four and we’re getting that ring.’ And I’m just so proud.”


(Penalty kicks went 5-4)


Goal – Ellie Wilson. Goalkeeper saves – Tyler Merlock 1, Gabriela Semlick 3. Match standout – Ava Kruckenberg. PK goals – Tori Lasch, Ella Rorabaugh, Ellie Petersen, Nora Martin, Ava Kruckenberg. PK save – Semlick 1.


Goal – Ariana Vaeao. Goalkeeper saves – Madison Burrus 5. PK goals – Peyton Holle, Aleigha Woodland, Isabela Marquart, Bella Gonzales.

Halftime – Tied 0-0