After advancing to the championship game of the 2019 4A Girls Soccer State Playoffs, the Woodburn Bulldogs were already in the midst of an unprecedented season.
No other Woodburn girls athletics program, let alone the girls soccer team, had ever played for a state title.
The Bulldogs were not going to let this opportunity slip away.
Using the team's impenetrable defense that allowed just one goal throughout the team's playoff run, the Bulldog girls defeated the Marist Spartans 1-0 on Saturday at Liberty High School. It was the first state championship title won by a girls team in Woodburn High School history.
"I feel like I'm on a whole other level," Woodburn senior Bailey Castro said. "It feels just incredible, and I love the fact that so many people came out."
The southside stands at Liberty were packed with what felt like the entire Woodburn community, which made the trip north to cheer on and later revel in the dual championships won by the girls and boys soccer programs. It's the kind of celebration of girls athletics that head coach Andrea Whiteman and her staff of Caitlin Brennan, Mayra Vazquez and Ariko Kaziboni have been pushing since she took over the program heading into the 2017 season.
"It's huge because when I came into this position three years ago, our entire goal didn't revolve around wins, it revolved around getting people to respect the women's soccer program as much as they respect the men's soccer program," Whiteman said.
In that span of time, Woodburn quickly climbed the ranks, going from a last-place finish in the 5A Mid-Willamette Conference in 2016, to their first playoff appearance in 20 years last year to champions.
"The talent was there. I think what was missing was support, recognition and the girls believing in themselves," Whiteman said. "Caitlin and I, we do a lot of positive talk. We're constantly trying to tell them how incredible they are and getting them to realize it."
No one will doubt them anymore after the Bulldogs steamrolled through the state playoffs, winning every contest as the lower-seeded team while putting up three shutouts in four games.
That signature defense was put to the test against an aggressive Marist team that took nearly twice as many shots as Woodburn. Looking to hold onto their 1-0 lead in the second half against the Spartans, the Bulldogs took a massive hit when starting goalkeeper Carla Zamora collided with Marist forward Abbie Chambers on a 50-50 ball, leaving the Woodburn senior crumpled on the ground, doubled over in pain.
"Instead of kicking the ball, she ended up kicking me on the thigh. It was a pretty hard impact on my leg muscle," Zamora said. "I knew I had to step out because I couldn't get up on my own. I had to be carried out."
"Carla is a tough girl, so when she goes down, you know something has to be wrong," Whiteman said.
Woodburn's freshman backup Litzy Gonzalez, who starts on defense for the Bulldogs, had exited the game in the first half with a concussion after being elbowed in the back of the head.
With limited options to turn to, Whiteman tapped Castro to fill the void, counting on one of her senior-most players to step up to the challenge when the team needed her most.
"I've actually only ever played goalie as a fourth or fifth string goalie my freshman year for about two games," Castro said. "It freaked me out a little bit, but they've got to have a goalie, so I just have to step in."
Castro served in goal for just over 13 minutes while Zamora worked the tightness out of her thigh and warmed up on the sideline. Though she didn't record any saves, Castro was aggressive in her time, challenging balls before they got to the net and playing through a pair of Marist corner kicks.
When Zamora returned in the 67th minute, she made an immediate impact, recording three of her game-high five saves, including a diving deflection she was barely able to reach with her fingertips, pushing the ball past the goal and out of bounds.
"It meant a lot because I knew I had to be there for my team. I knew they needed me," she said. "This is the last game ever I'm going to be able to play in high school."
For her efforts, she was selected as Woodburn's Player of the Game in the post-game awards ceremony. Zamora was able to preserve the win thanks to the first-half heroics of junior Yahaira Rodriguez, who was responsible for the Bulldogs' lone goal of the game.
Facing a pressing Marist attack in the early minutes of the game, Woodburn swiftly countered and worked the ball up Myranda Marquez, who cross the ball to Rodriguez in the middle. The Woodburn forward fended off a trio of Marist defenders and slotted it past Spartan keeper Tessa Woodrum for what turned out to be the game-winner.
The rest of the contest was spent fending off Marist in a duel of styles between Woodburn's finesse and the Spartans' brute force. Whiteman anticipated Marist would try to exert their will on the game through physicality and prepared her team appropriately.
"I grew up playing against Marist, so I know how they play; that's how I play," she said. "So this week, Caitlin, Ariko, Mayra and I all tried to knock the girls around as much as possible so that they get used to it. I was very impressed with how they held their own."
Woodburn weathered the storm for 72 minutes, making school history in the process and adding another championship banner to the rafters of the Woodburn High School gymnasium.
"It means a lot because the girls soccer program has never made it this far. It's the first time ever, and I just feel like it opens up new doors for us in the future," Zamora said. "I feel like for next year, it's going to take them far. Playoffs and league, wherever they're playing, I know they can make it."
"I told the girls, you're not just winning for this team, you're winning for every girl who has ever gone through this program," Whiteman said.
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