La Center edged Columbia High, 3-2, in a five-round shootout last Saturday in Stevenson to win a Trico Division girls soccer playoff and earn the division's automatic berth in the state 1A/2B tournament.
The victory put the Wildcats (11-4-1) in the SW Washington District 4 title match, which was played Wednesday night in Camas. La Center's opponent was Evergreen Division champion Montesano (14-1-1).
Columbia and La Center battled through 80 minutes of regulation and two 5-minute sudden-death overtime periods before settling the outcome with a penalty-kick shootout. The score at the end of regulation and overtime was 1-1.
The Bruins (9-6) opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a goal by Johanna Zimbelman, off an assist by Dayan Garcia.
Columbia held the lead until La Center's Shelby Wilkerson scored on a penalty kick late in the first half.
Wilkerson's scoring shot in the 37th minute came after the referee whistled CHS defender Kaci Kreps for a foul when she broke up a La Center 1-on-3 break near the top of CHS's goal box.
Kreps made a play on the ball, not the player, and knocked it away with a sliding tackle from the side. But in the process, the La Center player tripped over Kreps, resulting in the foul call.
"I didn't agree with that call but there was nothing we could do about it except play on," Bruins Coach Amy Kasenga said.
And the Bruins did just that, putting together several strong attacks in the second half and in overtime.
Columbia's best opportunity at retaking the lead came in the 53rd minute, on a shot by Zimbelman that La Center goalie Ashley Mate turned away with a diving block.
"We had a lot of chances," Kasenga said, noting the Bruins outshot the Wildcats, 26-8. "We just weren't able to finish."
But neither could La Center, not until the shootout.
In the shootout, Columbia went first and missed. After four rounds of penalty kicks, La Center held a 3-2 advantage.
It stayed that way as Columbia's fifth shooter missed and La Center celebrated.
"It was discouraging that that's how the game was decided, with penalty kicks," Kasenga said. "But at the same time, it wasn't the end of our season."
Prior to Saturday, Columbia had been 1-1 in matches decided by penalty kicks. The Bruins lost in a shootout Oct. 10 at Onalaska\Napavine and beat La Center in a shootout on Oct. 12.