Valley Catholic girls soccer moves on to 4A semifinals

A torrential downpour during Saturday’s second half could not prevent the second-ranked Valley Catholic girls soccer team from getting the goal it needed to win its Class 4A state quarterfinal.

Sophomore forward Callie Kawaguchi took a pinpoint pass from midfielder Taylor Menkens and beat Philomath goalkeeper Kena Bacho in the 54th minute to provide the only score of the match in the Valiants 1-0 quarterfinal victory at Valley Catholic High School.

Valley Catholic head coach Kayla Gaspardis was actually calling for Menkens to send the ball across the field to an open Kate MacNaughton. Fortunately, in this case, Menkens didn’t hear her coach and slipped it through to Kawaguchi on the wet turf.

“I was just trying to connect with Callie,” said Menkens. “We’ve been working on our runs. I looked up and saw her making that run wide. “I knew I could slot it though and I knew she’d be fast enough to get to it. I didn’t hear coach telling me to pass it to Kate. I’m glad I gave it to Callie.”

Gaspardis was also happy Menkens didn’t hear her this time.

“I was yelling at Taylor to switch the field to Kate because Kate was wide open,” Gaspardis said. “But she saw Callie making that run and Callie made a great decision to toe poke it into the back of the net. It was a beautiful ball from Taylor.”

The Valiants, who won their 13th consecutive contest, had ninth-ranked Philomath (11-3-3) on its collective heels for the vast majority of the match. They outshot the Warriors 21-3, which included an 11-1 edge in shots on goal.

Philomath seemed to realize it was outmatched up front and implemented a very defensive style of play.

“Early on in the game, when we were pressuring them over and over again, they just decided to drop their entire defense and spread out so much that it was a little bit difficult for us to get going forward,” added Gaspardis. “So at halftime, we talked about a strategy to be able to beat a team that is just dropping on you. They were playing for penalty kicks. In this situation, that’s what they thought was the best.”

Just as in their first-round win over Henley, the Valiants’ defense was largely untested and held their ground when Philomath pushed forward.

The Warriors didn’t even have a shot until the 45th minute, and junior goalkeeper Noelle Mannen made her only save of the match on a harmless free kick by Philomath midfielder Loren Rogers in the 72nd.

"Our defense has come a long way this season,” Mannen said. “We’ve been working on stepping up and reducing opportunities for our opponents.”

“It’s a good thing when I don’t have to touch the ball,” she added with a grin. “Communicating keeps me focused personally, talking to my defenders and keeping engaged that way.”

Sophomore defender Sarah Jones helped anchor Valley Catholic’s impressive backline.

The Valiants were aided by the fact that Philomath was without its leading scorer – junior Carrie Lillis – who suffered a concussion in the Warriors’ first-round victory over Junction City.

Valley Catholic stepped on the gas early and often and could have won by a larger margin if not for two shots off the crossbar and another off the post.

The Valiants’ best first-half chance came in the final minute when Kawaguchi sent a nice low cross from the right sideline in front of the goal mouth, but freshman Riley McGee’s chip shot sailed just over the bar.

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