When you get down to the final rounds of the playoffs, any little mistake can mean the end of your season.
That was the fate the No. 7 seed Sunset High girls soccer team faced Tuesday night, Nov. 9, at Strasser Field against No. 3 Grant.
Going into the 76th minute scoreless, the Generals were able to find a wide open Caprial Loescher in the middle of the box. She put the goal away and Grant went up 1-0.
The Apollos couldn't return the favor and dropped the match 1-0 in the Class 6A semifinals and ended their season at 12-5-1.
"I think our back line was solid all game, it's just one little slip-up and unfortunately Grant capitalized," Sunset coach Carly Bennett said. "But you can't complain. I'm so proud of our back four. They held strong for the full 80, it's just that one little ball that got through that one time."
What helped open up Loescher on the game-deciding goal was the Apollos keying in on Grant star Elle Frazier, who scored five goals in 5-0 win over Sunset on Sept. 9.
That defensive strategy worked well for the first 75 minutes as breakaway attempts with Frazier were thwarted for the most part, except for a time or two where Frazier did get an open shot but couldn't put it away.
Sometimes it only takes one error defensively, though, and an overcommitment to keeping Frazier down led to an open teammate.
"We knew (Frazier) would be played man-to-man and we were hoping someone would feed off that," Tjuanakis said. "(Frazier) made the run to the outside, the defense went with her, Caprial made a run inside and it was just wide open."
Not only did the Apollos' back line play well, the midfielders excelled in the first half, creating turnovers and keeping the Grant offense mostly at bay, led by Ellie Felt and Jane Hmura causing havoc.
The second half saw more possession for the Generals and more breakaway attempts for Frazier, though, ultimately leading to the Loescher game-winner.
Grant finished with more shots, 9-7, and more shots on goal, 6-5 meanwhile Sunset had more corners with a 4-3 advantage.
"We wanted to find our center mids on the ball … that's probably where we're best, in the center of the field when the ball is at our feet," Bennett said. "That's what we tried to do and wanted to do."
Nothing was left wide open on the Grant defensive end as the Generals still haven't given up a goal in four playoff matches. In fact, Grant has only given up six goals on the season and is up to 13 shutouts out of its 16-1-1 record.
Being in this spot isn't a surprise for the Apollos, who entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed and pulled an upset on No. 2 Lake Oswego in the quarterfinals.
Bennett said she and the Apollos coaching staff knew this squad was capable of not only making a run for the state title, but could contend for the title.
So while the run came up short, Bennett isn't letting her team members hang their heads.
"Even though we were the seventh seed, I don't think that's a reflection on them at all," Bennett said. "I'm just so proud of them and everything they've accomplished this season."
The Apollos lose 10 seniors off the 2021 squad in Emma Snell, Abigail Fresvik, Siera Edwards (who made six saves in goal Tuesday), Malea Cesar, Claire Kennedy, Harleen Dhasi, Madison Fresvik, Parisa Burke, Palin Layne and Natalie Calahan.
It starts and ends with leadership when it comes to Bennett's 10 seniors, and she admires the way her upperclassmen helped the team throughout the season.
"The leadership on and off the field the seniors give to us is every coach's dream," Bennett said. "It's things that aren't replaceable. (It's) just the leadership that we're going to miss."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.