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The Pioneers scored twice in the first five minutes and then relied on the defense to shut down the Celtics in Tuesday's opener

PAMPLIN MEDIA: JIM BESEDA - McNary's Regann Donahue (14) tries to manuever under pressure from Oregon City's Lily Bartel (2) during the first half of Tuesday's non-conference girls' soccer game at Pioneer Memorial Stadium.Oregon City High School's girls' soccer team earned mixed reviews following Tuesday's season-opening 2-0 home win over McNary at Pioneer Memorial Stadium.

The Pioneers were ecstatic when forward Abi Willet and midfielder Taylor Salisbury each found the back of the net in the first five minutes.

Then came the next 75 minutes, when Oregon City's offense struggled with its finish and the Pioneers leaned heavily on the defense and goalkeeper Nova Ceperich to secure the win.

"I think we learned a lot of things about our team and who we are and what we have and what we need to work on," Pioneers coach Marshall Brewer said. "I saw a team that came out on fire and then after we got up 2-nil, I saw a team that turned into a different squad.

"It looked like once we were up two goals, we were done."

Oregon City scored on its first offensive rush as Salisbury sent a through ball up the middle of the field to Willet, and the junior striker beat McNary keeper Sydney Snapp 18 seconds into the match.

The Pioneers struck again in the fourth minute when Salisbury took a shot from 30 yards out that Snapp misjudged, going to the ground as the ball landed a couple yards in front of where the keeper dove and bounced over her into the net.

A soft goal? Perhaps, but at that point, it looked as if the Pioneers could do no wrong.

"We started out really strong," Willet said. "We were moving the ball really well, passing really well, and we were talking and moving for either other.

"Scoring early like that usually sets the tone for the game, but I don't know if that really happened in this game."

It was almost as if the Pioneers took their foot off the accelerator and went into cruise control, while the Celtics (2-1) redoubled their efforts at both ends of the field, hoping to at least keep the game from slipping further away.

"We scored those two goals and then we just went into a funk mode where, 'OK, we're good,'" Marshall said. "Honestly, we came out on fire, and that was something we worked on all summer and in training – coming out on fire and being the aggressor. We did that tonight, but then the wheels fell off.

"Maybe there were some first-game jitters. I'll chalk up some of what happened to that, but not all of it. I'm not going to bail them out with that. They simply didn't play up to the standards we expect."

That's not to say the Pioneers didn't continue to put pressure on McNary defense and create scoring chances, because they did.

The problem was that Oregon City had a few too many transition rushes that broke down between midfield and the top of the 18-yard box because of poor ball movement, poor player movement, or a combination of the two.

"Our decision making was not very good," Brewer said. "We missed the right pass and we settled. I've got to figure out why that happened, because in our training sessions and our jamboree we didn't have that problem.

"For some reason in this game, it seemed like we missed a lot of chances."

Defensive stand

At the other end of the field, McNary had some success playing long balls from the middle of the field to the perimeter of the 18-yard box, but Oregon City's back line of Lily Bartel, Hannah Beebe, Maddie Phelps, and Jaynie Rust consistently steered trouble away from the Pioneers' goal.

The Celtics sent some crosses through the box that caused some commotion, but very few of their shots were actually on goal, and Ceperich, the Pioneers' junior keeper, handled everything that came close.

"When you see a team that plays that long ball, you know you're in for it physically because you have to run back and forth, back and forth," said Beebe, the senior center back. "Personally, if I was McNary, I would have stopped playing that ball after the fourth time they tried it, because we shut that attack down.

"That's the thing, I was never worried, especially with Nova back there in goal. I trust her with everything."

McNary's Maya Luscomb sent a cross through the box that just missed connecting with Caitlyn Kiefiuk-Yates and Haley Hughes as they crashed the goal in the 68th minute.

Kennedy Buss had another shot for McNary in the 73rd minute, and Gina Munguia took a corner kick for the Celtics in the 76th minute, but that was the last of the quality scoring chances in the game.

In the end, the Pioneers' defenders and Ceperich probably had to do more heavy lifting than they had anticipated, but at least they were equal to the challenge.

"Our defense played flat-out phenomenal," Brewer said. "McNary had a couple shots and there were a couple plays they probably should have finished, but our back line got there and them out of their comfort zone, which is exactly what I'm asking out of them.

"They were the difference in the game."

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