Columbia High enters the last week of the boys soccer regular season coming off an emotionally draining shootout loss last Thursday at Stevenson.
That defeat prevented the Bruins (7-3 in Trico Division, 9-3 overall) from securing their third-straight SW Washington District 4 2A playoff berth.
They can still do that by beating Ridgefield and La Center this week, but the odds are against them.
Columbia has never beaten Ridgefield, which has the division's premier program. Moreover, the first time the two teams met this spring, the Spudders sacked the Bruins, 7-0.
Bruins Coach Peter Knowles knows CHS will have to play its finest match to topple Ridgefield, which is undefeated this season. He also understands CHS can't look past La Center.
"It's still up to us," he said. "We don't expect to get any help from anyone else."
At the end of last week, Columbia held a razor-thin lead over Stevenson (7-4) and Hockinson (7-4) in the fight for second place in Trico standings.
Assuming Stevenson and Hockinson win their finales, and that it loses to Ridgefield but beats La Center, Columbia will finish in a three-way tie for second place.
Such a scenario will necessitate division playoffs to determine which two teams will go to district. (Defending Trico champion Ridgefield clinched the division title and the top district seed two weeks ago.)
Under the format agreed to by the three schools' athletic directors last week--a coin flip determined the playoff matchups--Columbia would play Hockinson this Friday in Stevenson.
A win there would send Columbia to the district playoffs next week as Trico's No. 2 seed; its opponent would be the Evergreen Division's No. 3 team.
Alternatively, a loss would force CHS to play Stevenson on Saturday in Washougal for Trico's third and last district berth.
Knowles would relish a rematch with Stevenson. He felt the Bruins outplayed the Bulldogs last Thursday, just as they did in their 2-0 victory on March 28.
"We put 16 shots on goal to their six. We had lots of chances to win that game," Knowles said, "but our shots just wouldn't go in. In the games we've lost this year, it's come down to our not being able to put the ball in the goal."
Notable misses Thursday included a forceful shot by senior Whitney Butler in the early going that struck the crossbar and a later header by senior Samuel Lachino that "was right on top of their keeper," Knowles said.
"The ball was down but so was their keeper, who got just enough hand on it to knock it away," Knowles added.
Columbia's freshman goalkeeper, Carlos Mendoza, and his supporting cast of freshmen Ramon Cortez, Louy Lerebourg and Chuy Ramos were equally good, however, throughout 80 minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of overtime.
"The one thing our defense did well was defending the box in tight against their long throw-ins. Our defense, for being so young, has played very well," Knowles said. "And Carlos had a couple of great reaction saves" that preserved the stalemate.
In the shootout, which went seven rounds, Stevenson prevailed, 6-5. Stevenson's miss came in the third round, Columbia's in the fourth and the seventh.
At Columbia High 11, Montesano 2:
The Bruins won the April 26 match--their final non-league outing of 2006--with surprising ease.
They led 4-0 after 24 minutes of play and 6-2 at halftime en route to scoring a season-high 11 goals.
"When you score 11 goals in a game, something must be going right. But I honestly didn't expect that kind of game," Bruins Coach Peter Knowles said, "not after they played us so close up north." (Columbia won that March 24 match, 2-1).
Senior Demi Sanchez and sophomore Mart¡n Mendoza led the way for the Bruins. Each recorded a hat trick and an assist.
Sophomore Cheno Barajas had two goals and two assists, and senior Samuel Lachino added one goal and two assists.
Sanchez got the Bruins rolling, scoring in the second minute off a feed from Lachino.
"For some reason getting that early goal is important," Knowles said. "Somehow it energizes our team to go after more."
All told, CHS fired off 26 shots, 22 on goal, or, as Knowles put it, "lots of opportunities, lots of goals."
"It was another one of those games where we moved the ball as we wanted to through the midfield and usually when we do that, we're in pretty good shape," Knowles said.