By SVERRE BAKKE
Midway through its 13th season, Columbia’s girls soccer team finds itself firmly ensconced in second place in Trico League standings.
The Bruins are 7-1 at the halfway mark and hold three-match leads over Castle Rock and La Center, thanks greatly to a 5-0 home record. Tuesday night, the Bruins hosted the league-leading Woodland Beavers for their most important match of the 2013 season.
Woodland defeated CHS, 4-0, on Sept. 10 in the season opener for both sides. Columbia, though, is a much different team from the one that got shut out at Woodland. Since then, the Bruins have won seven in a row — a streak that has seen them win convincingly without resorting to running up the score, and prevail when the going got tough.
“By taking care of business in the first half of the season, we have given ourselves a comfortable buffer,” Bruins Coach Amy Kasenga re-marked.
Entering Tuesday’s re-match with Woodland, Columbia was poised to challenge the Beavers for the league’s top prize: an automatic berth in November’s WIAA Class 1A tournament.
This year, in case of ties, the first tiebreaker will be goal differential in head-to-head play. Kasenga understands the math.
“We have to score at least four goals and hold Wood-land scoreless,” Kasenga said, “but that still would leave us tied. The next tiebreaker is total goals scored, so I hope I don’t regret not scoring a few more goals in some of our earlier games. It just means we’re going to have to be in best form and finish strong whenever the chances come.”
At Columbia 7, Stevenson 0:
In 12-plus seasons of girls soccer, Columbia has never lost a match to Stevenson. The Bruins continued their dominance over the Bulldogs last Thursday in Bruin Sta-dium, running their all-time league record against them to 25-0.
The Bruins got goals from five players — Sofia Terner, Juliet Knowles, Stacia Bell, Claire Anderson, and Cata-lina Suarez — and the CHS defense completely smothered the winless Bulldogs.
Columbia took charge of the match early on with unassisted goals by Terner and Knowles in the fourth and seventh minute respectively. Bell scored in the 24th minute, Anderson in the 30th, and Suarez (her first of the season) in the 33rd to send the Bruins into the intermission with a 5-0 advantage.
Columbia so dominated the action on the field that its offense managed to launch 54 shots at the Stevenson goal and attempt nine corner kicks. Conversely, the CHS defense kept the Bulldogs offense locked up in its half of the field for much of the 80-minute contest. Surprisingly, the Bulldogs failed to tally a single shot on goal or earn a corner kick.
The Bruins kept the pressure on in the second half, though the goals didn’t come as quickly or easily against a packed-in Stevenson defense. Terner, who attempted a team-high 12 shots, scored unassisted on a breakaway in the 45th minute and Suarez made it 7-0 with a scoring shot in the 68th minute.
Kasenga attributed the lack of second-half goals, in part, to Stevenson’s defensive adjustment. She said, “We didn’t have more shots go in due to the number of people standing in front of the goal.”
Columbia 6, at La Center:
The weather and field conditions for this Oct. 1 Trico match were less than optimal: it was raining heavily and the field was waterlogged as a result. Still, the Bruins persevered and won a critical road match against CHS’s longtime nemesis.
“We’re on Cloud Nine from being in a constant struggle with La Center,” Kasenga said of the elation the Bruins felt after winning their sixth in a row. She said it took the Bruins a while to adjust to the conditions but “we figured it out.”
All told, the Bruins fired 23 shots on goal and were rewarded with goals from six players: Caitlin Scott, Katherine Childs, Sofia Terner, Claire Anderson, Savannah Story, and Aidan Liddiard.
Scott got CHS on the scoreboard in the 12th minute, scoring off a corner kick by Olivia Grim. “That’s been something we’ve come to rely on,” Kasenga said about running plays off corner kicks. (Scott left the match in the first half with a sprained ankle but was expected to return for CHS’s rematch with Woodland.)
Childs put her name in the scoring column in the 32nd minute when she finished off a pass from Terner. The first half ended with CHS in front, 2-0.
Five minutes into the second half, Terner — whom Kasenga said was “a major attack force herself” in the first half with five shots on goal —controlled of a “beautiful ball from the middle” by Emma Matson with her left foot and placed it into a top corner. Said Kasenga, “It was a perfect shot, an indefensible shot.”
Anderson made it 4-0 in the 50th minute with a “first-touch crack at the goal” from the right side of the field, Kasenga said, and added, “Claire is a sprinter, so we want her in those positions where she can capitalize on her speed.”
Story netted her goal in the 60th minute, and Liddiard finished a scoring opportunity created by Catalina Suarez in the 70th.
“We had the better of the possession and the better of the play,” Kasenga said. “Our shots came from different locations and different players. Those have been strengths for us.”
The Bruins are away on Saturday for their rematch with Toledo/Winlock United. Columbia will finish the regular season by playing four of its final six matches on the road. Its next home match is scheduled for Oct. 22 against Castle Rock.