TACOMA — In the first meeting they were close. The rematch, a penalty kick shootout loss, was even closer.
So when the Ridgefield girls soccer team faced 2A Greater St. Helens League foe Columbia River for the third time this season on Friday in the Class 2A state semifinals, the Spudders felt due for their first win over the Rapids.
“I’ll give it to River, they’re a great team, and I think we always have some sort of mental block when it comes to them,” Ridgefield senior Ellie Petersen said. “At the end of the day, no excuses. This is state. We just had to really step it up.”
Motivated by those past results and a goal they set in the summer to reach state, the No. 7 seed Spudders grinded out a 1-0 win over the No. 3 Rapids at Mount Tahoma High School to advance to Saturday’s 2A state championship game.
Keaira Farley’s first-half goal from a free kick gave Ridgefield a lead that stood, and the Spudders fought off several River attacks late in the second half for their 14th shutout of the season. Ridgefield will play West Valley of Spokane at 3 p.m. Saturday in the team’s first state championship appearance since 2015.
West Valley beat East Valley of Yakima 1-0 in the second semifinal.
“It feels amazing to finally get where we deserve,” Farley said.
Over 30-plus minutes of physical play in the first half between two teams who know each other very well, Ridgefield was proud of its ability to grind through those sequences and settle in.
The Spudders capitalized in the 33rd minute when River was called for a hand ball, setting up a 20-yard free kick for Farley. The senior unloaded on a line drive shot that tucked underneath the cross bar and into the net.
“I was thinking, this has to go in,” Farley said. “I made one just like that in another game, so I had confidence in myself that I could do it, and just trying to get it away from the goalie any way I can.”
“The goal definitely gives us that confidence to keep going and grind it out until the end,” Petersen added.
River, the defending 2A state champion, played Friday without two of its top attacking players. Senior Avah Eslinger suffered a season-ending leg injury in River’s last game against Ridgefield and junior Ivy Henderson was injured in the Rapids’ state quarterfinal game six days ago against R.A. Long.
Without them, the Rapids needed time to find their rhythm in the attack. They put together their most furious rally in the final 10 minutes with three shots on goal, all saved by Ridgefield goalkeeper Gabriela Semlick.
The biggest key to the Spudders keeping the Rapids out of the net? Their communication, said Petersen.
“River is really good about coming forward with their marks and switching, so I think it’s just that communication, and knowing who’s going to the ball and (clearing) it,” she said.
Ridgefield also had an injury in the second half to Farley, who collided with a River player and was helped off the field to the trainer’s table. The senior said after the game she suffered an ankle bruise, and is optimistic about playing Saturday.
Of Ridgefield’s current roster, 14 players were part of the program’s last run to the state final four in 2021 when the Spudders lost to Hockinson and River in consecutive days to settle for fourth place.
Suffice to say, the Spudders, and particularly their seniors, wanted a better ending in their return trip. Now, they’ve earned the right to finish the season playing for a state championship.
“It really brings back the past and hopefully we can bring it home,” Farley said.
“I just said, there’s no way I’m coming up here to get fourth in state again,” Petersen said. “I just think it attests to our relentlessness. That’s something we write on our leg, like that’s what we’re all about this year.”