Columbia High's girls soccer team is going back to the state tournament after a four-year hiatus.
The Bruins earned CHS's second state berth--and their first in Class 1A competition--with a 1-0 sudden-death overtime victory over their archrivals, the La Center Wildcat, in a SWW 1A Trico Division tiebreaker played last Thursday in Kalama.
Columbia capitalized on a slip-up by La Center usually reliable defense. With just under 3 minutes gone in the 5-minute overtime period, a La Center defender failed to clear a pass from CHS sophomore Laurel Huth to freshman forward Lyndsey Scott.
"Laurel broke through the defense on the right side of the and played a beautiful through ball to Lyndsey," Bruins Coach Amy Kasenga recounted. "Lyndsey maintained her poise as she attacked past the last defender and placed the ball into the bottom right corner."
With that golden goal at 2:01 of overtime (on CHS's 21st shot of the match), Columbia clinched the Trico Division's automatic berth in the WIAA Class 1A Tournament that gets underway next week.
The Bruins mobbed Scott in the immediate aftermath with hugs and pats on the back as the significance of the moment began to take hold.
"We're very pleased with our performance against La Center," Kasenga said. "We won the 50/50 balls in the air, ran through the ball, pushed the ball up as a team from the defensive end and deny the Wildcats' attack."
Columbia and La Center had to play off after finishing in a tie for first place in final Trico standings for the second time in three years.
La Center beat Columbia, 3-1, in the last week of the regular season, then won its Trico finale against Kalama to forge a tie.
The playoff last Thursday was a decidely defensive struggle that played out mostly in the midfield area. The score at halftime was 0-0.
But midway through the second half, the Bruins started to build toward a goal with a series of sharp attacks led by senior midfielder Whitney Reynier that had La Center's defense doing its best to turn back the pressure.
"The girls were fighting leg cramps and other minor injuries but would not give up," Kasenga noted.
Columbia's defense, for its part, held the Wildcats in check, allowing 13 shots on goal. Senior goalkeeper Claire Stevenson managed the flow, however, recording 10 saves.
"Stevenson had a big evening, winning the balls at the top of her box and taking away the La Center attack early," Kasenga said. "In the midfield, Huth, Reynier and (senior Anna) Schmid played a formidable game, disallowing the long ball attack and holding possession."
Moreover, on the back line, junior Katie Yarnell dominated in the air with defensive headers; freshman Manon Lerebourg bottled up LC's top playmaker, Shay Cheeseman, with tough man-to-man defense; senior Emily Paxson held down the right side; and junior Sandra Guzman made her presence felt with forward attacks.
"We're extremely proud of our defense," Kasenga said.
Columbia (12-2-1) will meet Montesano (15-1) on Saturday in the Southwest District's 1A title match. It will be played in Kalama High School's Chinook Stadium, starting at 2 p.m.
Measured in victories, the first season of the Columbia High-Trout Lake girls soccer cooperative has been a great success. CHS's 12 wins are a school single-season record. Columbia won 11 matches in its state 2A tournament season of 2004...
Columbia is 3-5 against La Center the past three seasons. In two of those, La Center received the Trico's automatic state tourney berth.