Washington's Class 2A girls soccer tournament begins next Wednesday, Nov. 10, and Columbia High will be one of the 16 teams in the field.
In just its second season of competition, Columbia (11-6 overall) made its post-season debut Monday a good one.
The Bruins edged Onalaska/Napavine, 1-0, at Chehalis' W.F. West High School in a winner-to-state SW Washington District 4 playoff match.
"It's an exciting time for our program," said Bruins Coach Amy Kasenga. "We wanted to play well, to show we could compete, and we definitely did that with our play Monday."
Columbia played again Wednesday in Camas for state tournament seeding (for third or fourth, against Toledo/Winlock, a 2-1 victor over Woodland)--after this week's edition of The Enterprise had gone to press.
However, it's known that Columbia would play the No.-1 seed from District 1 (NW Washington) in the first round of the state tourney--at a time and place yet to be announced--if it were to defeat Toledo/Winlock Wednesday.
Conversely, a loss Wednesday would pit the Bruins against the No.-1 team from District 3 (the Nisqually and Olympic Peninsula), again at a time and place to be announced.
"When you look at the state brackets, we'd have to travel much farther to play our first game, maybe to Bellingham, if we win Wednesday," Kasenga said, "whereas, if we lose, we'd play someplace closer to home, like Tacoma."
But when it comes to the post-season, nobody thinks about losing; winning--getting on a roll--is what every team strives for in the playoffs.
"Our approach to every game is the same: that if we play our best, we have a chance to win," Kasenga said, adding. "I think our strengths will serve us well against the kinds of teams we're going to face from here on."
Columbia High 1, Onalaska/Napavine 0 --
Freshman Shannon McNallan scored in the 19th minute off a direct free kick from 23 yards out to account for the match's only goal.
The Bruins made that goal stand up for the next 61 minutes of action with a solid defensive effort that was keyed by their control of the midfield transition game and the play of sophomore sweeper Chelsea Ludwig, CHS's player of the match.
"Chelsea played with great control and showed why she earned defensive MVP of the league," Kasenga said. "She was all over the place, doing what she does best: breaking up attacks and clearing the threats out of our zone."
Still, Onalaska/Napavine (14-3), the second-place team out of the SW Washington League's Evergreen Division, had a chance to tie the match with a free kick with about 10 minutes remaining. But the attempt, from just outside the penalty box, struck a post and caromed out of play.
"That was a big moment and, needless to say, we were relieved when they missed," Kasenga said.
Shots in the match totaled 17: 10 by Columbia and seven by Onalaska/Napavine.
At Ridgefield 5, Columbia High 0 --
The Bruins closed out the regular season last Thursday with their third loss in a row.
Ridgefield led, 2-0, at halftime, though it didn't score its first goal until the 19th minute.
"The shot record was pretty one-sided (18 to 5, Ridgefield), but we really were a thorn in their side all night. We didn't make it easy for them," Kasenga said. "We stepped up our game and played at their level."
Player of the match honors for CHS went to freshman Naomi Halpern.
"Naomi's first touches were amazing. She was winning ball in the air, she attacked well and took good shots," Kasenga noted. "It's a huge plus for us that she's figuring out her role as a both a center-midfielder and an attacker."
At Hockinson 1, Columbia High 0 --
Kasenga pulled the Bruins off the field 10 minutes into the Oct. 26 Trico match and handed the Hawks a forfeit victory.
Because of heavy rainfall, "the field was unsafe and unplayable," the Bruins coach said. "There was no passing to be done because the ball wouldn't roll and the footing was treacherous, at best."
Kasenga finally made up her mind to call it quits when sophomore Chelsea Ludwig went down in the 10th minute with a knee injury.
"I made the decision for the safety of our team," she said. "We had already clinched a spot in the playoffs and, at that point, the loss of a player would have been far more damaging than the loss of the match."