Sunset girls soccer advance to 6A title
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Sunset is once again off to the girls soccer state championship game after defeating Metro League rival Glencoe 2-0 in the OSAA state semifinals Tuesday, Nov. 7 at Sunset High School.
On a cold and windy night in Beaverton, the Apollos got a goal in the 14th minute, then scored a second time in the 78th minute to ice the game and send the second-place Metro League finisher to the state final for the second consecutive year, where they'll face undefeated and No. 1-ranked Jesuit Saturday, Nov. 11 at Hillsboro Stadium.
"We played a really good team and Glencoe was very deserving to be in the semis," said Sunset head coach Ben Durano. "They gave us a heck of game and Josh (Richards) has done a heck of a job. We're fortunate to get through."
Eerily similar to the one the two teams played Nov. 16 in which the Tide played uninspired throughout the first half, got behind early and ran out of time in an effort to come back, Glencoe appeared flat to start, seemingly tentative and inexplicably playing without purpose.
"We didn't show up to play in the first half," said Richards. "We didn't have that intensity we needed, and with this strong wind, the direction mattered and we wasted our opportunity to play downwind."
And Sunset took advantage.
The Apollos' first goal started with a Glencoe mistake and ended with senior forward Ally Thom making them pay for it. Sunset's goalie, Bridgette Skiba, took a free kick from near midfield, sending a long ball just inside the Tide's 18-yard box where the Glencoe defender misjudged her header, allowing the ball to soar over her head and into space for the darting Thom.
The Sunset forward tracked it down and quickly sent it past the charging Tide goalie for the game's first goal and the Apollos first lead just 14 minutes in.
"I saw Bridgette's cross coming in so I was just trying to stay onside," said Thom. "Then I saw the keeper coming out, so I just tried to tap it in far post and finish it."
The game slowed down from there, as neither team could mount much of a threat. Glencoe had a couple corner kick opportunities and a free kick from roughly 45 yards that junior center back
Michaela Kirschten sent inches over the crossbar, but aside from that it was the weather and that early Sunset goal that was setting the tone.
"An early goal really helps," said Sunset head coach Ben Durano. "In these conditions it was huge to get that first goal."
The Tide played with more urgency in the second half and got a couple hard-fought opportunities at the Apollo's goal, including a Kirschten header on a corner from Glencoe's Celeste Molina-Sanchez that unfortunately for the Tide went straight into the hands of Sunset's Skiba.
But battling the wind and a quality Sunset team with a one-goal lead proved too big of a hurdle to clear, and when the Apollos' Emily Wenzel made it 2-0 on a one-on-one with two minutes left, the game was all but over and Sunset was on to another state final.
"Amazing," said Sunset senior midfielder Kendsy Carmichael. "Last year we were in a similar situation and that momentum really helped us going into the season. Getting back here shows how much we wanted it and hard we worked for it."
While Durano and Carmichael were a bit concerned with the idea of playing a familiar Metro League foe in a game of this magnitude, Thom thought that familiarity actually worked in the Apollos' favor prior to and during the game.
"I think playing Glencoe was a bit of an advantage," Thom said. "We we're familiar with them and we knew we'd beaten them before."
Now it's on to the final where they'll play No. 1-ranked and Metro League champion Jesuit, a team they lost to 2-0 to start the year, but also beat 2-1 in last year's state semi-final.
"I feel good about playing Jesuit," said Carmichael. "We played them early on and hadn't really found ourselves as a team, but we've grown so much since that first game so I'm super excited to get a chance to play them again."
Durano stopped short of using the word "excited" to play an undefeated Jesuit team, but he's eager for another opportunity to win a state title and hopes that "familiarity" Thom spoke of works in their favor Saturday against the Crusaders.
"I was a bit afraid of playing Glencoe a second time because they have a bit of a comfort level against us," said the coach. "But hopefully we can have that same relaxed approach against Jesuit Saturday and it'll work in our favor."
Sunset's state title game against Jesuit will be played Saturday, Nov. 11 at 330pm at Hillsboro Stadium.