In a battle of Class 4A giants, Gladstone juniorÂ Rhyli GrimÂ stepped up to lift the Gladiators to victory.
Grim recorded a hat trick to lead No. 3Â GladstoneÂ past No. 4Â Valley CatholicÂ in a nonleague girls soccer match on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at Valley Catholic High School.
Grim scored twice in the first half and once in the second half for the visiting Gladiators, who improved to 3-0. The Valiants, coming off a 0-0 tie last week against No. 6Â North Marion, slipped to 2-1-1.
"Our midfielders have done a really good job of feeding the ball through to our forwards," Grim said. "And our defense has done a really good job of defending."
"They were probably the most skilled team we've faced," Gladstone coachÂ Tyler LewisÂ said. "And they're certainly the best defensive team that we've played in a while."
The 5-foot-6 Grim blasted a volley into the upper left corner of the goal in the 10thÂ minute, took a through ball and slid it past the VC goalkeeper in the 31stÂ minute, then converted a corner kick by seniorÂ Alyn DeVenyÂ in the 50thÂ minute. Grim, who scored 16 goals in the 10-game 2021 spring season, has seven of Gladstone's 13 goals this season.
"She's a little bit unorthodox," Lewis said. "And because she's a little unorthodox, her shot comes at a weird angle, it comes at a weird time. Every time we think, 'She shouldn't shoot that,' and then it goes in."
In any case, the Gladiators know how effective Grim is and work to get her the ball.
"Our main goal is to get her outside and look to get some isolation there," Lewis said.
Grim's efforts have helped fill the void left by the graduation of forwardÂ Brianna Lewis, who scored 17 goals in the spring before heading off to college at Oregon Tech.
"I think we can grow even without her on the field with us," Grim said. "She was definitely a big asset to our team when it came to scoring, but I think we can grow and become an even better team."
Gladstone returns all but two starters from the spring, when it finished 8-2 and lost toÂ PhilomathÂ in the quarterfinals of the 4A Showcase. The Gladiators feature three first-team Tri-Valley Conference first-team picks in Grim, junior midfielderÂ Delaney McNettÂ and junior goalkeeperÂ Emersyn Stepp.
"We haven't had to make many adjustments," said Tyler Lewis, who also led Gladstone teams to the 4A quarterfinals in 2018 and 2019. "We don't have a lot of depth, but we don't have a lot of weaknesses. When we look at individual battles with the other teams, we feel like we're going to win more than we're going to lose."
Grim said that the Gladiators "have grown a lot" since the spring.
"We definitely have a lot more connection on the field, a lot more communication," Grim said. "A lot of us have grown up and become really smart on the field."
Gladstone got a big home win Sept. 9 when it defeated No. 5 Philomath 3-1, avenging its 2-1 loss from the spring.
"They definitely had that one marked on the schedule," Tyler Lewis said of his players. "It was frustrating last year because they felt they were good enough. On our good days, we felt like we were one of the best teams, so we felt like we gave one away. It was a little bit disappointing."
Said Grim: "Us getting beat by Philomath made us really motivated to beat them. I hope if we meet them in the playoffs, we can do the same thing, take them out."
Valley Catholic finished 9-0 in the spring -- outscoring opponents 35-0 -- but opted not to participate in the 4A Showcase.
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