The Oregon City Pioneers were far and away the better team in Tuesday night's nonconference girls' soccer match against the Liberty Falcons at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.
And it showed on the scoreboard.
Oregon City's Gracie Pederson and Chloe Baird each scored a goal in the first half on Sept. 13, and Taylor Alexander and Kylee Turner added second-half goals as the Pioneers rolled to a 4-0 road win.
Elsie Marineau had a fairly quiet night in goal for the Pioneers, who pushed their record to 3-0 — all three wins coming by shutouts.
"I'm super-proud of my team and the way we came out and played," Pioneers' co-captain Mia Spellman said. "Especially being away, we just knew that we needed to bring it and make sure we played our game. We worked hard the whole night for 80 minutes."
In the first half, Liberty's Janna McNamee had a pair of high-quality scoring chances on partial breakaways — the first coming in the eighth minute when the Falcons' senior forward broke through Oregon City's last line of defense and unleashed a shot from the top of the 18-yard box that veered just outside the right post.
The first key turning point in the match came on an Oregon City corner kick in the 12th minute when Spellman crossed the ball from the right corner into the middle of the 6-yard box, where Pederson directed it off the crossbar and behind Liberty keeper Kiley Collins for the game's first goal.
Eight minutes later, Oregon City had another corner kick from the right corner. This time, the Falcons cleared the ball outside the 18 but sent it right to Baird, whose shot from 30 yards out found the mark and gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead.
From there, it was pretty much all Pioneers.
The remaining Liberty scoring chances were few and far between, while Oregon City spent the majority of the second half on the attack on the Falcons' end of the field.
The Pioneers added to their lead when Collins, the Liberty keeper, turned back a shot by Olivia Bariao-Arce but left out a rebound that Alexander drove home to make it 3-0 in the 62nd minute.
Turner's goal with another assist from Spellman closed out the scoring in the 73rd minute.
"We wanted to get back to playing with high pressure, which I saw by how we kept the ball at their end," Pioneers coach Marshall Brewer said. "We were able to dominate the field that way and then gave them no room to play. And we did that the whole game.
"Liberty slotted a few through-balls on us, which is going to happen, but we recovered well from most of those. Our defense really hasn't been challenged with speed like that and we had some issues in the first half, but we cleaned it up in the second half."
For the Falcons, the greatest struggle came once they found themselves playing from behind as they lost their second in a row and slipped to 1-2-2 overall.
"I feel we were a little unlucky in the first half, missing those two one-on-one opportunities, which could have turned the tide of the match," Falcons coach Jim Maine said. "I think the goals that we gave up, the first one was a bit soft, definitely preventable, so … it's hard to come back from those types of things.
"As far as how the match went for us, we did not achieve the goal that we had talked about, which was just a simple goal. Regardless of how the match went, win or lose, we just weren't able to do it, and it came down to what I would say was 'positional discipline,' which is something we'll work on."
Clearly, the Pioneers were the aggressors.
"I would say that Oregon City's dribbling was a lot stronger," Maine said. "I don't know if passing possession, per se, was what I would call 'dominant,' but definitely the way that they attacked with the dribble was the difference-maker, for sure.
"I think that we're just still trying to figure out a few positions, and there are some players who are fantastic players who are just trying to do too much right now."
At 3-0, the Pioneers are off to their best start since 2016 when they won their first four games to open the season. What makes this start a bit more remarkable is that they've outscored their first three opponents by an 8-0 margin — and all eight goals have been scored by eight different players.
After graduating the starting goalkeeper and all four starting defenders of last year's team that reached the OSAA Class 6A quarterfinals, Oregon City had some major question marks across the back end to open the season. And while questions continue to linger after only three games, the Pioneers can point to their three shutouts and at least say they are pointed in the right direction.
"Honestly, I think we're ahead of where I thought we'd be defensively," Brewer said. "They've stepped up quite a bit, and we've worked hard on the back end, and it shows. I'm pretty proud of our defense. But we're young back there."
The biggest question is this: How well are these games helping prepare Oregon City for what's to come in Three Rivers League play?
"We're winning, which gives us a certain confidence, but … the Three Rivers League is tough," Brewer said. "Every game is hard. There are no easy teams there. Not that we've played any easy teams to start the season, but what we've seen isn't at the level of what we'll see in the Three Rivers.
"You can't complain when you're 3-0 and you haven't conceded a goal and you're scoring. At the same time, we know what's coming. We train hard and we don't take any days off, and I tell the girls, 'This might cost us a preseason game,' because we're running them so hard. But we've got to get ready for the Three Rivers."
Spellman put a positive spin on everything the Pioneers have through after three games and where they're going from here.
"We played three super-competitive teams from three different leagues and there's always work to be done, especially going into the Three Rivers League," Spellman said. "It's such a tough league, but we're going to put in the work. I believe and trust in my teammates that we'll get it done in the Three Rivers."
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