GLADSTONE, Ore.—History has a funny way of repeating itself.
It was two years ago that the No. 9 seed Woodburn Bulldogs made the trek to the No. 1 seed Gladstone Gladiators to pull the 2-0 upset in the playoffs enroute to a state finals appearance.
In the year 2021, Woodburn, this time the No. 4 seed, made the journey up to Dick Baker Stadium to square off against the No. 1 ranked Gladiators. Once again, the Bulldogs got the shutout win, this time 1-0, and advance to the state finals.
"I think the difference was our confidence," Woodburn head coach Andrea Whiteman said. "A couple weeks ago we were really struggling with that, I think against North Valley we came out lacking that confidence and we've been building that the last couple of games. I think you were able to see us calm down a little bit and play together."
The difference maker was a goal in the third minute of the first half from Woodburn junior forward Elizabeth Valdez Vazquez. She pinned the ball in the upper left-hand corner of the Gladstone net.
"When I first started, I saw that I was getting pressured a lot," Valdez Vazquez said. "In my head I was like, 'I want to score so bad,' that kept going on in my head. Once I got the ball, I took that chance and scored."
Valdez Vazquez was the lone striker for stretches of the game, a lineup change that was different than Gladstone had anticipated going into the game.
"I think we had a little bit of confusion," Gladstone head coach Tyler Lewis said, "I think we thought they were going to play more through (Woodburn senior Myranda Marquez) and they went a little more direct and played into (Valdez Vazquez)."
In the second half Gladstone came out and played an aggressive game with their back against the wall. The Gladiators unleashed a torrent of shots and strikes on frame, but Woodburn junior goalkeeper Litzy Gonzalez was able to fend off all the attempts. Gonzalez, who in 2019 was a starting midfielder, made her presence known.
"Litzy is absolutely nuts," Whiteman said. "She has with-it-ness, and she turns it on. Once she has it on, there's no stopping her."
For Gladstone, the loss brings an end to a truly impressive season. Heading into the semifinals against Woodburn, the No. 1 ranked team in the state racked up a 15-1 record, the Tri-Valley Conference championship, and conceded just four goals; Valdez Vazquez's was the fifth and final conceded. With a graduating backline, Gladstone will have to rebuild its defense but the offense figures to remain strong.
"We have a lot of great seniors, that back line are all seniors back there," Lewis said. "I don't think anyone has had that low a total, to play 17 games and only give up five goals. But our front six are really talented, and mostly coming back with all-league and all-state players that have experience. I think we're going to continue to be competitive and one of the tougher teams to play in the state every year."
The Bulldogs (12-0-4) advanced to the 4A state championship game against Hidden Valley (15-0-2), a showdown between the only unbeaten teams at 4A. For Woodburn, the game is something special.
"As a team I feel like it means a lot to us because throughout the years we have been getting a lot of critiques like, 'Women are not the best,"' Valdez Vazquez said, "and now we're out here showing them."
The game will take place at Liberty High School on Saturday, Nov. 13.
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