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In the second round of the state playoffs, the Cougars lost 3-2 to the No. 5 ranked Apollos

ARCHIVE PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Maria VanAcker talks strategy with her players.Canby had picked up the upset against Glencoe the week before, ousting the Pacific Conference champions 2-1 in the first round of playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 27. In its next postseason affair, the Cougars squared off with No. 3 team in the Metro League and fifth seed in the playoffs, Sunset on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Coming off of the big win against the Crimson Tide, the Cougars were confident in their chances against the higher ranked Sunset squad.

"The girls were confident in their abilities and in their teammates," Canby head coach Maria VanAcker said. "They proved that they were deserving of playing on that stage, sharing a field with a very talented team. We talked a lot about our strengths and also the areas we needed to watch. The girls truly were playing their best soccer at the end of the season which is what we set out to do."ARCHIVE PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Makena Speer scored the tying goal against the Apollos.

In what was a back and forth game, Canby was ultimately defeated 3-2 on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

It was a tough start for the road team, as Sunset jumped ahead with a goal in the first half, but the lead would not last long. A sophomore midfielder Zoe Thompson free kick was ultimately the start of the scoring sequence that saw freshman Makena Speer put the ball away to tie up the game 1-1.

"The momentum was shared between the two squads," VanAcker said. "Sunset had their chances and we defended well. We were equally as dangerous in the final third of the field and had our chances to finish but couldn't capitalize as much as we wanted. It was a physical battle of speed and tenacity from both teams."

Canby made it back to back goals in the second half, when sophomore Ellie Shorter put the ball away to take the lead 2-1. Ultimately the Apollos managed to get two more goals past Canby goalkeeper Halle Adair, and when the horn blew Sunset walked off with the victory 3-2.

In defeat, the Canby squad falls to 10-6 overall, but views the recent setback as a learning opportunity upon which to build.

"The girls learned what it takes to compete at the level they've been striving to reach, playoff-caliber soccer," VanAcker said. "They set a new standard for themselves when they show up to play on any given night. The expectation now is the level that they competed at these last two games. This post-season builds incredible momentum for this group to take us into next year."

While VanAcker gave props to Shorter, Adair, and junior defender Ally Odell, (among others) she stressed that it was a team performance in the Sunset game and throughout the course of the season.

"All 19 girls had significant influence in last night's effort," VanAcker said. "They were all in unison with one another and on the same page."

After the season, VanAcker looked back on the squads efforts and noted the progress made from the previous year. After going 4-7-3 last season and failing to make the postseason, the growth is evident on paper. VanAcker credits it to the team coming together and the positive mindset at the outset.

"The progress is so evident with this group," VanAcker said. "Early in the summer they defined the way they wanted to train, and did so all summer to prepare for the fall. Come August, they defined the legacy they wanted to leave behind. They agreed that if they played for each other every night, and had the mindset of champions, they could achieve things never done before in program history."

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