The Tigers will open the playoffs with a home game Saturday

by: DAN BROOD - KEEPING THE FAITHE -- Tigard junior Faithe Wantland (19) battles a pair of Forest Grove defenders for the ball during last Thursday's match. TIGARD — It’s official.

The Tigard High School girls soccer team is the Pacific Conference champion.

And, even better, the Tigers say, they don’t have to share that honor with anyone else.

Tigard, which shared the title with Tualatin last year, claimed sole possession of the 2013 conference championship in dominating style as it rolled to a 5-0 win over Forest Grove in a conference finale played last Thursday at Tigard High School.

“This is huge. It’s special,” Tigard senior midfielder Erin Graham said after the title-clinching win. “It gets better and better every year.”

“This is more memorable,” said Tigard senior Emilee Cincotta, who had a pair of goals and a pair of assists in the win over the Vikings. “Tualatin is a great team and to finish ahead of them feels good.”

With the win, Tigard finished the Pacific Conference season with a 6-0-1 record, putting the Tigers two points ahead of second-place Tualatin, which had a final conference mark of 5-0-2.

“I’m happy for the kids. They did well,” Tigard coach Paul Slover said. “This year is better.”

Tigard, which is entering the Class 6A state playoffs as the No. 1 team in the OSAA power rankings, will open postseason play Saturday when it will host Lake Oswego in a first-round match starting at 6:30 p.m. at Tigard High School.

Lake Oswego, the No. 6 team out of the Three Rivers League, brings a 5-8-2 record into Saturday’s game at Tigard, which is 12-0-2 on the season.

“We want to go as far as we can,” Cincotta said of the playoffs. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

“It’s exciting,” Graham said. “It comes down to who wants it the most and who doesn’t make mistakes. We’re going to leave it all on the field.”

Tigard wasted little time in taking control in last Thursday’s conference finale with Forest Grove.

Tiger sophomore forward Natalie Bryant, after taking a pass from Cincotta, scored from 10 yards away, putting her shot from out front past Forest Grove goalkeeper Mayra Patoja Palominos to give Tigard a 1-0 lead just 1 minute and 35 seconds into the match.

It didn’t take long for Tigard to strike again.

by: DAN BROOD - VICTORY MARCH -- The Tigard High School girls soccer team, including sophomore Larysa Cleaver (0) and junior Madison Bickel (3) celebrate following the Tigers' conference title-clinching win over Forest Grove. Tiger senior forward Kyla Smart scored on a running shot from 12 yards away off another assist by Cincotta, putting her shot into the left side of the Forest Grove goal to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead with 31:24 remaining in the first half.

Tigard kept firing away, getting shots on goal from both senior Megan Franz and from Cincotta in the next five minutes of play, with Palominos having to make a diving block on Cincotta’s shot from 17 yards away.

But Cincotta wouldn’t be denied on her next attempt. After taking a pass from sophomore Rachel Josephson, Cincotta fired a hard-hit shot from 23 yards away into the Viking goal to up the margin to 3-0 with 25:35 remaining in the first half.

Cincotta, in the right place at the right time, scored the next Tigard goal on a follow-up shot. The scoring play started with a long free kick by Josephson. The kick went to the front of the Viking goal, where Tiger sophomore Ellie Freeman hit a header shot.

Freeman’s shot hit the left post of the Forest Grove goal, with the ball bounding back to Cincotta, who put her shot from six yards way into the back of the net to up the Tigard lead to 4-0 with 14:05 remaining in the first half.

Franz capped off the first-half scoring spree with a goal from 30 yards away, with her shot sailing over Palominos and under the crossbar, upping the margin to 5-0 with 11:18 left before halftime.

While Tigard put five goals on the scoreboard in the first half of play, the Tiger defense, including sophomore Raney Roche, Josephson, junior Madison Bickel and freshman Melinda Myers, among others, limited the Vikings to just one shot on goal in the first half.

Forest Grove also got only one shot on goal in the second half. Tiger senior forward Liz Beth Flores came close to scoring in the opening minutes of the second half, as Palominos had to dive to block her attempt to a corner kick.

Graham came oh-so-close to scoring on three separate shots in the second half, including a spin-around shot from 20 yards away that hit the bottom of the crossbar of the Viking goal.

Nevertheless, the Tigers were never really threatened as they closed out the 5-0 title-clinching victory against the Vikings, who finished conference play with a 0-7 mark.

“The girls did really well tonight,” Slover said. “They played well right from the very beginning.”

And, soon after the win, the Tigard girls celebrated with a messy cupcake fight.

Such things as that, the Tigers say, have been key to their success this season.

“We’re so close as a team,” Cincotta said. “We’ve been together for a long time. We know each other.”

“I think the team chemistry is the best we’ve ever had,” Graham said. “This is a great group.”

Tigard, if it wins its state playoff first-round match on Saturday, will host either Westview or West Linn in a state playoff second-round match on Tuesday.

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