Columbia High can clinch its first District 4 playoff berth this week with a couple of Trico Division victories.
The second-year Bruins entered the week tied for second place in the standings with the Woodland Beavers, who were scheduled to visit White Salmon Tuesday.
Columbia's three remaining matches are this Thursday at home against Castle Rock, next Tuesday at Hockinson, and next Thursday at Ridgefield.
A win Tuesday over Woodland would give Columbia the inside track for the Trico's second seed in the district playoffs, which begin Monday, Nov. 1, and conclude Wednesday, Nov. 3, at times and places yet to be determined.
The district playoffs--featuring the top three teams from both the Trico and the Evergreen divisions--will decide Southwest Washington's five entries in the state 2A tournament, which starts Wednesday, Nov. 10.
In their first meeting this season, Woodland defeated Columbia, 2-0.
Bruins Coach Amy Kasenga declared her team was at full strength "and pumped up" for Tuesday's rematch.
"The girls realize that the first time we played Woodland wasn't our best effort," Kasenga noted. "They also realize that (Tuesday's match) is one of those games where, whatever the outcome, we have to come away with the feeling that we did our best to compete."
At the same time, she went on, the Bruins can't look past Castle Rock and Hockinson, two teams they have already beaten and that don't have a chance of making the playoffs.
"It's one game at a time from here on. Each game is important in the standings," Kasenga said, and added, "With so much at stake, we can't afford to lose the ones we're expected to win."
Columbia moved closer to securing its first playoff spot with Trico victories last week against Stevenson here Oct. 12 and at Kalama last Thursday.
The Bruins didn't trail, and the score was never tied, in either match.
At Columbia 5, Stevenson 2 --
Junior Kelley McNallan scored in the 18th minute of play and freshman Kaci Kreps netted a goal in the 23rd to put the Bruins ahead, 2-0.
The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard in the 25th minute, but the Bruins countered with a goal by freshman Naomi Halpern in the 37th.
Freshman Shannon McNallan made it 4-1 three minutes into the second half, and that lead held until Stevenson scored again in the 67th minute.
An own goal credited to CHS freshman Johanna Zimbelman in the 70th minute concluded the scoring.
"It felt good to show everybody that it wasn't just a fluke that we beat Stevenson the first two times we played them," Kasenga said.
The victory moved the Bruins two games ahead of the Bulldogs in the playoff race and came on a night when, said Kasenga, "we played with a purpose."
"There were lots of shots both ways, but we won this one based on our play in the midfield, where we won just about every ball in the air and controlled possession," CHS's coach added.
Each team finished the rubber match of the season series with 26 shots.
Kasenga cited the standout play of CHS sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Kidd, who "had some exceptional saves" among her 19 stops.
Player of the match honors, however, went to sophomore defender Okoree Peyralans.
Columbia 4, at Kalama --
The Bruins "were slow and sloppy in their play at times" during their rematch with the Chinooks, a team they beat, 10-0, in their first meeting.
Still, they were in control from the outset and took a 2-0 lead into the halftime break.
Player of the match winner Kelley McNallan opened the scoring in the 16th minute and Naomi Halpern gave CHS a two-goal lead in the 31st.
Another McNallan goal in the 54th minute padded CHS's margin of comfort, and Brazilian exchange student Natasha Onishi made it cushier in the 67th with her first goal of the season.
Overall, however, Columbia only outshot Kalama, 9-5--a statistic Kasenga attributed, in great part, to the Bruins' lack of patience and focus.
"We weren't taking the time to let things develop," she said. "Mentally, we weren't executing what we knew we should be doing; we weren't utilizing our strengths."