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With Playoffs Looming

Bruins look to finish strong

Three District 4 Class 1A playoff berths remained up for grabs as the SW Washington 1A League's tightly packed Trico Division entered the last week of the 2006 girls soccer regular season.

Four teams--Columbia High, La Center, Rochester and Castle Rock--were in the mix for those playoff spots. Moreover, with only one game in the loss column separating first place from fourth, all four were still in contention for shares of the division title.

That's an important point to make because of the nature of district playoff seeding.

Under the playoff format approved by the league's athletic directors, the winners of the SW Washington 1A League's Trico and Evergreen divisions will qualify automatically for two of the district's three berths in the 1A/2B/1B state tournament, which starts Wednesday, Nov. 8.

SW Washington's third state entry will emerge from the district playoffs that begin next Monday in Tumwater and conclude next Wednesday in Camas.

Columbia (6-2 in Trico, 7-5 overall) could clinch at least a half of the Trico championship by beating Castle Rock and Rochester at home this week.

To claim the title--and the division's automatic state berth--outright, however, CHS would have to win both Tuesday (vs. C-Rock) and Thursday (vs. Rochester), and get help from last-place Kalama (Thursday at La Center).

A more likely scenario is that Columbia and La Center will finish in a first-place tie. In that event, the two teams would play off this Saturday, at a place and time to be determined, for the division's spot in the district championship match--set for Nov. 1 in Camas--opposite Montesano, the top seed from the SW Washington 1A League's Evergreen Division.

"If all goes according to plan and we have two more wins at the end of the week, we will play La Center on Saturday for the first-place spot at a neutral site," Bruins Coach Amy Kasenga said.

The loser of the tiebreaker would face off against the Evergreen Division's No. 3 team (Toledo/Winlock United or Tenino) next Monday for a chance to play for a state tournament berth next Wednesday (versus the winner of the Trico No. 3-Evergreen No. 2 playoff).

But before she could think about the playoffs, Kasenga first had to get her team ready to face two tough Trico opponents.

"As far as the focus for the week, it's one game at a time," she said. "We beat Castle Rock in the first go-round this year, but we've lost to them in a shootout the past two seasons. So, we never count them out or look down on their abilities. They are a huge focus for us to stay on our game and show up to play. We cannot afford to be inconsistent at this point in the season."

Late in 2005, the Rockets dealt the Bruins an unexpected 1-0 shootout loss--one of four consecutive shutout defeats that knocked CHS out of the playoff running.

The Bruins, of course, would like nothing more than to avenge that loss. Ditto for their 2-0 setback at Rochester earlier this year.

"In our first match with Rochester, the score does not do justice to the game," Kasenga said. "We controlled possession from most of the evening and were in the attacking end predominantly."

Still, Rochester was able to capitalize on a pair of CHS defensive breakdowns to score the only goals in a match that the Bruins dominated statistically by outshooting the Warriors, 29-6.

"If we can't connect on those shots, it doesn't matter," Kasenga said. "So, of course, we will focus on finishing and keeping sharp on the quick long balls that they like to play and that caught us flat."

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