Sole possession of first place in Trico Division girls soccer standings will be on the line in CHS Stadium tonight, when Columbia High hosts La Center in a No. 2 vs. No. 1 matchup.
For the Bruins, the rematch offers a chance for payback. When the two teams first met this season back on Sept. 18, the Wildcats (5-1, 6-2) shut out the Bruins, 2-0, and gained a share of first place.
Columbia (3-1 in Trico, 4-2 overall) can move into first place by itself tonight by returning the favor in a match its coach and players have been looking forward to for almost a month.
"We're where I thought we would be, though I wish we had beaten La Center the first time," Bruins Coach Amy Kasenga said of CHS's second-place standing going in to tonight's match. "But when I look back on it--we had eight injuries in the game--we were lucky to get out with just a 2-0 loss."
In the weeks since their visit to La Center, Columbia's players have gotten healthier and become more comfortable in their team roles. CHS's more cohesive play was evident in recent Trico victories over Rochester and Kalama.
"It's starting to come together, things are clicking, and La Center will be a good test for us to see where we stand against our toughest competitor," Kasenga said.
Columbia High 5, at Kalama 0:
The Bruins made their debut on Kalama's new field turf last Thursday and turned in another dominant performance against the Chinooks.
Columbia built a 4-0 halftime lead on goals by Naomi Halpern, Shannon McNallan, Anna Anderson and Whitney Reynier, and finished with a 28 to 3 advantage in shots.
Kasenga credited the play of CHS's midfielders for creating ample opportunities for the team's finishers.
"The game mostly took place in the midfield and forward," she noted, and, as a result, "we had a lot of great attacks."
The goals by Halpern (9th minute), McNallan (17th) and Anderson (25th) were unassisted and came on plays "where each had to fight for control of the ball and beat defenders," Kasenga said.
CHS's fourth goal, in the 40th minute, occurred on a header by Reynier, off an assist by McNallan, with only seconds left in the first half.
Columbia tallied its final goal--by Katie Crumpacker, her second of the year--in the second half. Reynier started the assault with a shot that struck the right post and fell directly in front of the goal. Crumpacker followed it up to give CHS a 5-0 advantage.
The Bruins' defense kept the shutout--CHS's second of the season, both against Kalama--intact, thanks to the play of Mackenzie VanLaar, Kaci Kreps, Rebecka Childs, Sandra Guzman and Kirsten Larsen in front of goal keeper Claire Stevenson (2 saves).
"Our defense has done a fantastic job of disallowing shots," Kasenga said. "Against Kalama, our defenders did a good job of pushing their attacks out wide, then taking the ball away and up the sides."
At Columbia High 6, Rochester 1:
It took the Bruins 15 minutes to zero in their aim on the Warriors' goal at the start of the Oct. 2 Trico match.
But once the shots started finding the back of the net, the outcome was never in doubt.
Columbia, which outshot the visitors 36-7, mounted a 3-0 halftime lead and led 6-0 before Rochester broke up the shutout with a goal in the 77th minute.
"Our center-mids did a good job of distributing the ball, so we got a lot of shots from outside the box," Kasenga noted. "I've been encouraging the girls to turn and shoot if they have the opening, and against Rochester we had quite a few."
Michelle McMillen opened the scoring, putting a ball from Whitney Reynier into the net in the 15th minute.
Six minutes later, Naomi Halpern scored unassisted. And in the 34th minute she made it 3-0 off a McMillen assist. Columbia ended the first half with 17 shots.
Noted Kasenga: "We hadn't played in a while and were just excited to play. You could feel the energy, that they were just going to rip it open eventually, and they did."
The Bruins' advantage grew to 6-0 in a 3-minute span at the outset of the second half with goals by Ane Vilnes (42nd), Anna Anderson (43rd) and Shannon McNallan (45th), from assists by Anderson, Reynier and Vilnes.
"We had great communication, especially right off the bat in the first half; we controlled the possession game and played very well in the short passing game," Kasenga said.
Standouts on defense for CHS included defenders Mackenzie Van Laar, Kaci Kreps and Sandra Guzman, and goalkeeper Katie Crumpacker, who recorded four saves.