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Ahead of NWAC women’s soccer playoffs, Lower Columbia rolls past Clark

Red Devils win West Region, Penguins remain in second place

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: October 25, 2023, 6:52pm
7 Photos
Lower Columbia College's Sydney Lulay (13) celebrates with teammates Rhyli Grim (16) and Molly Romanchock (18) after scoring the Red Devils' first goal in an NWAC women's soccer match on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, at Kim Christensen Field.
Lower Columbia College's Sydney Lulay (13) celebrates with teammates Rhyli Grim (16) and Molly Romanchock (18) after scoring the Red Devils' first goal in an NWAC women's soccer match on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, at Kim Christensen Field. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The brewing rivalry between Lower Columbia and Clark College’s women’s soccer programs adds an extra layer of motivation whenever the two meet on to the pitch.

Both teams’ rosters are filled with Southwest Washington players who know each other well from their prep and club careers. Plus, with Lower Columbia and Clark both making deep runs in the Northwest Athletic Conference playoffs in recent years, the result can be important for postseason seeding.

“You go into the game knowing you don’t really have a choice to lose,” said LCC sophomore midfielder Molly Romanchock, a Hockinson High School alumna.

The Red Devils of Longview emphatically displayed that mindset in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over the Penguins at Kim Christiansen Field, which secured LCC a second straight NWAC West Region title with one game left in the regular season.

“We practice really hard and we felt like we earned it, so it felt really good,” said LCC freshman forward Sydney Lulay, a Union High School alumna.

The four LCC goals came against a Clark defense that had allowed just six total on the season coming into Wednesday’s tilt. The Red Devils’ offense was firing on all cylinders after scoring three during a 15-minute stretch of the first half.

Lulay put through LCC’s first goal from close range assisted by Nataija Blaylock on a cross. It was the third goal of the season for the freshman.

“It was really great, actually, because it’s what we worked on and it was an easy ball,” Lulay said. “It was such a good pass, and I was just really happy I could complete it.”

Rhyli Grim added a goal on a scramble in the box five minutes later, and Jasmari Nolasco tacked on a goal in the 41st minute assisted by Jennifer Baertlein, another Hockinson graduate.

After Romanchock drew a foul in the box, Delaney McNett put through the Red Devils’ final goal on a 58th-minute penalty kick.

LCC (11-4-2, 9-1-1 West Region) had 12 shots on goal to three for Clark, and it was proof of an offense that has come a long way from the beginning of the season to now.

“Our offense was working really well, and we just kept picking apart their defense, playing repetitive plays that just kept working,” Romanchock said.

“It was kind of a weird season, the start of the season I was a little worried, just because we weren’t working together. … We weren’t all on the same page for the way that we play, our positions and our principles. … Now we’re at the point where you can sub anyone in off the bench and we’re going to play just as good.”

Clark goalkeeper Amanda Jeschke made seven saves for the Penguins in their final regular season home game. Sophomores Jeschke (Hockinson), Jessica Rico, Stephanie Llanos (Heritage), Kelsey Cordon and Camille Rios were recognized in a pre-match ceremony.

Clark (7-2-2) has already clinched an NWAC playoff berth and remains in second place in the West Region going into Saturday’s regular-season finale at Green River. The Penguins also finished runner-up in the West Region in 2022 and rallied to reach the NWAC championship match where they fell to Spokane.

LCC also reached the NWAC final four, but saw its season come to an end in a semifinal loss to Spokane.

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Both teams are primed to make another deep postseason run.

“We just want to make it as far as we can,” Romanchock said.

Clark men top Highline

The Clark men’s team beat first-place Highline 2-0 on Wednesday to earn a season split.

Clark (12-2), winners of three straight, had goals by freshman Isaiah Bunda (Union HS) in the 13th minute, and sophomore Dylan Sides in the 60th minute. Freshman goalkeeper Matthew Gordon made three saves for a clean sheet.

The Penguins have already qualified for the NWAC playoffs and finish the regular season on Saturday at Centralia.

A win by Clark and loss by Highline (13-1) would create a co-champion in the West Region.