Back to back: Wilsonville girls soccer repeats as 5A state champs
Winning a state title was so much fun the first time around, the Wilsonville girls soccer team decided to do it again.
After defeating No. 8 Crescent Valley 2-1 on Saturday, Nov. 12, in the OSAA 5A Girls Soccer State Championship, the Wildcats hoisted the championship trophy for the second year in a row and just the second time in school history.
"It feels so amazing, we've waited all season for this," said senior defender and captain Cassie Wedin as she held the championship trophy. "I'm so happy that we finally made it. There were definitely some bumps in the road, but I'm so proud of us for getting here."
A goal from junior Kenley Whittaker at the 10:05 mark put Wilsonville on the front foot for most of the match, and freshman Camryn Schaan added an insurance goal just after 60 minutes of play — a scoring strike that would prove to be the game-winner. Moments after Whittaker had a penalty kick attempt saved, the Raiders broke through the Wildcat defense for a goal with under 9 minutes to play, setting up an all-important sprint to the finish line.
"Soccer is a game where you're not going to have the momentum the whole time," said Whittaker, another captain, on swinging from potentially going up 3-0 to being in a 2-1 dogfight late in the match. "But what Wilsonville is known for doing is shutting down the other team's momentum."
Whittaker added, "It doesn't matter if we miss a PK, it doesn't matter if we concede a goal. If we're still up, then we remain calm, we possess and we find a way to close out the game — and that is exactly what we did."
Wilsonville bent for that brief moment late in the game, but the team never broke. Instead, the Wildcats held on for the 2-1 victory and earned the right to storm the field in celebration. After the match, Schaan, who assisted on Whittaker's goal before scoring her own, was named the OSAA Player of the Game for Wilsonville. Then, the team received their gold medals before finally being able to lift up the state championship trophy.
It was a prolonged moment of pure bliss for a Wilsonville team that did not necessarily look like a state champion at the beginning of the season.
The Wildcats began the year with a sobering 2-0 loss at Caldera on Aug. 31 before losing four of five games during one stretch in September. On the other hand, those four defeats came exclusively at the hands of 6A teams, three of which made the state semifinals (West Linn, Tualatin, Lake Oswego). The fourth, Lincoln, made the 6A quarterfinals before falling to West Linn.
Meanwhile, Caldera went on to earn the No. 1 seed in the 5A playoffs before being upset by Crescent Valley in the quarterfinals.
Suffice to say, Wilsonville did not have any bad losses on the ledger.
After that forgettable five-game stretch in September, however, they didn't have any losses whatsoever.
The Wildcats opened Northwest Oregon Conference play with a 1-1 tie against Putnam and followed that up with a 1-0 win over La Salle Prep, the same league rival they beat in the 2021 state title match. From there, Wilsonville proceeded to win out in the NWOC; however, those nonleague losses were an anchor on the team's OSAA ranking, which eventually led to the Wildcats earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.
"It really pushed us," said Wedin of the team's playoff seeding, adding that the Wildcats used that relatively low number as motivation for their playoff run. "Those (numbers) don't really matter. We can get to the top no matter what number we have at the beginning."
After the dispatching of No. 10 Woodburn in a 3-1 home win, Wilsonville went on the road for their next two matches. They came away from Springfield with a 1-0 upset win over No. 2 Thurston in the quarterfinals, and then they went on the road again for the semifinals against No. 3 Summit. That match turned out to be unlike any the team had ever experienced, with the field at Summit High School becoming blanketed in snow as a blizzard blew through Bend.
"That was crazy," said Wedin of the semifinal, which Wilsonville won after defeating the Storm 4-2 in a penalty kick shootout. "It was slippery, it was freezing. But we just pulled through and played a really good game. No matter the conditions, we still worked our hardest and came out with a win."
"I've never played in a game like that before," added senior midfielder Natalie Kendig. "With the snow that was there, and also the energy that was there, it was the best game of my life."
Thanks to that victory, Wilsonville entered the championship game Saturday with the belief that they would walk away victorious.
"We all believed, and we knew that we could make it here," Wedin said.
"We just believed in ourselves," Kendig echoed. "I feel like we had something to prove, to show everyone out here that we're capable of playing at the state championship."
The Wildcats proved their mettle and then some, leaving Hillsboro Stadium as back-to-back champions after an impressive showing on the biggest stage. While the team has earned the right to take a break and enjoy what they have accomplished, Whittaker is already salivating at the thought of a third-consecutive state title.
"I am absolutely pumped," said Whittaker with a wide grin. "Next year's senior class, oh boy. We've been to two state championships, so we all have that experience and that drive to be back here.
"You'll see us make a run for it next year, too."
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