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Four different players scored for the Gladiators in their 5-0 win over KUHS in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Gladstone senior Rhyli Grim (12) scored twice in the Gladiators' 5-0 win over No. 14 Klamath Union in the first round of the OSAA 4A Girls Soccer State Championships on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Gladstone.

The Gladstone girls soccer team can always count on senior forward Rhyli Grim for offense.

After all, she has scored 47 goals this season and 105 in her GHS career. She is far from the only capable scorer on this team, though.

No. 3 Gladstone (14-1-0, 10-0-0) proved that on Wednesday night, Nov. 2, in a 5-0 win over No. 14 Klamath Union (7-8-1, 2-5-1) in the first round of the OSAA 4A Girls Soccer State Championship tournament. Grim had two goals to lead the charge, but the Tri-Valley Conference champions also got goals from freshmen Ragan Brady and Leda Defendorf, as well as senior defender Hanne Hopkins.

One thing that team has been working on is establishing more connective play through passing, rather than trying to have individuals trying to dribble the ball all the way downfield.

"Working together as a team is really big," said Grim. "We've struggled with using our midfield, but now we understand that that's how we get the ball through to our offense a lot easier. Going against harder teams, we're not going to be able to dribble the ball around as much, so using each other is going to be really important."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Gladstone freshman Ragan Brady (18) and Rhyli Grim celebrate Brady's game-opening goal in their team's 5-0 win over No. 14 Klamath Union in the first round of the 4A playoffs on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

That teamwork was on display as the Gladiators solved the Klamath Union defense for two first-half goals and three more in the final 10 minutes of the game.

Just four minutes after kickoff, Brady scored to put Gladstone up 1-0 — a score line that lasted for longer than expected. Just before halftime, Grim scored to make it 2-0, but that early goal from Brady put Klamath Union on the backfoot. It took nearly the entire second half to break through again, but once they did, the Gladiators unleashed a flurry of goals.

Grim scored in the 73rd minute on a nicely placed shot across her body, and two minutes later, Hopkins scored amidst a sea of bodies in the penalty box off a corner kick. Less than a minute later, the Gladiators were attacking again. This time, it was Defendorf who put the ball past the KUHS keeper.

"It was very exciting," said Defendorf of scoring her team's final goal in her playoff debut. As one of the younger players on a team that features eight seniors, Defendorf said that she has been enjoying the ride with this squad. "It's been really fun. Everybody has been really nice, supportive and helpful."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Gladstone freshman Leda Defendorf (left) scored the final goal in the Gladiators' 5-0 win over No. 14 Klamath Union in the first round of the 4A playoffs on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Gladstone.

Gladstone may have added even more goals to the tally if not for Klamath Union's defensive strategy. The Pelicans pushed their defenders way up the field, creating a high offsides line that required the Gladiators to make some adjustments. The Glads were called for offside roughly a dozen times, but they finally figured out the timing.

"It changes where the forwards have to place ourselves," said Grim. "I learned very quickly, before kickoff even started, that they were pushed up really high. Since I'm pretty fast, I tend to drop myself about five yards back, so I have that space to run onto the ball without being offsides."

Grim added with a laugh: "Obviously, it took me a few times to learn that tonight."

She did figure it out, though, and now she is two goals closer to the state's single-season record of 55 goals, set in 2019 by Callan Harrington of Jesuit. Grim admits that the record chase is constantly on her mind during games.

"I've talked to a couple people about hitting the state record, and I want to do it really bad," said Grim. "Hopefully I can hit that goal, but we'll see what the playoff brings for us."

On the other side, the Gladstone defense gave Klamath Union very little to work with throughout the match. Hopkins, Emmalee Erkenbeck, Giselle Martinez and Ryme Jaekel formed a tight back line, with Sam Jedrykowski and Delaney McNett also winning plenty of balls in the midfield. That kept a clean sheet for goalkeeper Emersyn Stepp, the 11th shutout of the season for Gladstone.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Gladstone senior goalkeeper Emersyn Stepp (1) recorded her 11th clean sheet of the season in her team's 5-0 win over No. 14 Klamath Union in the first round of the 4A playoffs on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.

As a result of the win, Gladstone advances to the 4A quarterfinals, where they will host No. 6 Newport (13-2-1, 7-2-1) on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m. After taking third place in the difficult Oregon West Conference, Newport scored its own 5-0 win in the first round, toppling No. 11 Ontario at home Wednesday night.

Still, Grim is confident that the Gladiators can topple the Tigers and keep working toward the goal of winning a state championship.

"I think we have a chance to go pretty far if we keep our heads held high and not be so nervous going into the next game," said Grim of the team's postseason chances.

"Just understanding that we've got this, that we can do it."


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