West Linn girls soccer takes silver at state after loss to Jesuit
They didn't get the trophy they wanted, but the West Linn High School girls soccer team still pulled off the best season in school history.
In the OSAA 6A Girls Soccer State Championship final on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Hillsboro Stadium, the top-ranked Jesuit Crusaders took down No. 2 West Linn 1-0 to win the state title. The only difference between the teams was Mariane Dunne's goal in the 10th minute on a shot from the left side of the penalty box. Jesuit looked the stronger side for most of the first half, but after regrouping at halftime, the Lions were a worthy adversary for the Crusaders throughout the final 40 minutes.
"I think we came out a little bit timid. After that goal, it was definitely a wake-up call," said West Linn senior midfielder and captain Meg DeVall after the match. Coming out in the second half, we gave it everything we had and fought until the end. That's all you can ask for. We're very proud of ourselves."
"We'll have to live with that frustration and take it into next year," added junior Kate Cheldelin. "But we still made it here. We're second, and we're proud of that."
West Linn head coach Madison Gellos had the same diagnosis as DeVall regarding what went wrong in the early minutes.
"I think we came out a little bit flat," Gellos said. "It's our first time in a state championship, and we could kind of feel that our energy was a nervous energy. Jesuit came out hard, physical and fast. We've played against teams that are like that, but we just weren't ready when the whistle blew."
After the Crusaders went up 1-0, the Lions got their bearings and became more physical in the match.
"Once we got scored on, our team clicked and said, 'Oh, we're OK. It's only one goal, we can actually keep going,'" Gellos said. "That's when they started to get more physical, going into 50-50s more, not letting the ball drop before getting to it. That was one of our huge talking points at half: If you start winning those balls in the air, those 50-50s, this game is going to turn."
Gellos added: "When we were doing that, the game did turn in our favor. It was good to see that they were taking those coaching points and executing them."
While Jesuit outshot the Lions 7-3 in the first half, those numbers evened out in the second half as both teams fired off five shots. West Linn goalkeeper Kyra Jeffrey had four saves on the day, including two late in the game to keep the score steady at 1-0.
"We definitely held our own," DeVall said. "It was going both ways, and I don't think there was a specific team that dominated the second half. I think it was pretty even, and that was a big goal for us."
Both teams had multiple chances to add goals to the scoreboard, too, with each team having two shots clang off the crossbar. West Linn junior Ava Johnson, who was named Player of the Game for the Lions after the match, was the first unlucky victim. Later, senior captain Kelan Betts had a direct free kick attempt that nearly dropped in over the Jesuit goalkeeper in the 68th minute, but instead bounced off the top of the bar.
Despite a few close calls down the stretch, West Linn was unable to tie up the game before the final whistle.
Still, while the championship match did not go their way, the Lions are still relishing in what they accomplished this season.
"As a senior class, we've all been playing with each other since we were like 5 years old," DeVall said. "It's really cool to be in this moment, to make history as the first team to ever make it to the state championship."
"It means a lot, especially being a captain," DeVall added. "It makes me feel like I really brought something to the program this year, and I'm excited to see it escalate and watch them win some state titles.
The experience of making a run to the state title match should pay dividends for a West Linn team that only loses four regular starters — Betts, DeVall, Jeffrey and captain Kaia Schmidt — and seven seniors overall to graduation.
"I think they can win (the state title), I really do," said DeVall of the Lions who will be coming back next year.
Gellos agreed that her returning corps will be strong next year, but the coach was also careful not to overlook the seniors who helped carry this program to new heights.
"We have tremendous seniors on our team who we are going to miss a ton. They made huge impacts," Gellos said. "But it's nice because those players were also great leaders, so they were teaching our younger players what to do and coaching them up. I credit them with us winning league and getting this far."
As for Cheldelin, she is looking forward to West Linn having a target on its back next year after the Lions' playoff run.
"We were very underrated coming into this season," the junior said. "Nobody knew our name. Next year, people will know who we are, so we'll have some expectations to live up to. It'll definitely motivate us to work harder."
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