While it's true that there are no state championships for fall-season sports teams this year, that doesn't mean there are no big games.
The Wilsonville and Scappoose girls soccer teams proved that big-time when the Wildcats and Indians squared off in what amounted to a de facto championship game for the Northwest Oregon Conference on Thursday, March 18, at Wilsonville High School.
A year ago, the Wildcats battled to a 3-2 win at Scappoose, and later, finished second in the Class 5A state playoffs. The Indians, meanwhile, also earned a state playoff berth and advanced to the 5A quarterfinals.
But on Thursday, Wilsonville made sure things weren't quite as close, scoring its first goal just 1 minute, 3 seconds into the contest and riding that fast start to a 3-0 victory.
"We were definitely ready. We were," said Wilsonville junior forward Lindsey Antonson, who scored her team's third goal against Scappoose. "We knew that they were the top (team) in our league so we just wanted to come out and work hard, and luckily, we got the shutout."
"From the beginning of the week, we knew that this game was going to be one of the hardest games that we were going to play," said junior defender Dalton Mermis, who scored her team's second goal against the Indians. "The whole defensive line and I, we all talked and we said, 'We're going to get a shutout. We're not going to let any goals let in and we're just going to keep the high intensity up the whole game no matter what.' And so I think that we came up with a bunch of grit."
With the win — Wilsonville's fifth straight — the Wildcats improved to 5-0 for 2021 and 5-0 in the Northwest Oregon Conference. Scappoose, meanwhile, lost for the first time, saw its four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 3-1 in the NWC and 4-1 overall.
"Once we got down 2-0, we just really wanted to keep our heads in the game and just play to feet, get it up the line, and I think we turned it around really quick," said Scappoose senior midfielder/forward Tessa Davidson. "We did a good job of that."
"This was like a really anticipated game so I think we had our heads in the game and we still wanted to work hard, give them pressure and make it a (contest) for them," said senior defender Rylee Cook.
As well-matched as these two teams might be, the Wildcats took over — and took over early — on Thursday. Freshman forward Brianna Crane got things started when she looped a curving shot over Scappoose sophomore keeper Gabrielle Hanke from the left corner of the field into the top right corner of the Indians' goal just 1:03 into the contest.
"That just made us feel good because we've been working hard and we've been waiting for this game to come up," Antonson said.
Things got worse for the Indians before they got better, too. After 10 scoreless minutes, Mermis took a left-footed corner kick from the right side, sent the ball into a crowd in front of the Scappoose goal and — less than 10 minutes after Crane's score — gave her team a 2-0 lead.
To their great credit, however, the Indians didn't drop their heads. Instead, they responded with some of their best soccer of the night, getting a dangerous attack from senior Cailyn Tindall set up by Davidson, and immediately after that, a corner kick by senior Anika Havlik midway through the half.
Just a minute later, Scappoose freshman Alice Davidson took a hard, diagonal shot that deflected off a Wilsonville defender and forced a stop by Cats' junior keeper Maddie Erickson.
But Wilsonville held the upper hand the rest of the half, getting a free kick and corner kick from junior Karina Borgen, and a trio of attacks from Antonson — including a one-on-one miss versus Hanke 12 minutes before the break.
Already up 2-0, the Wildcats attacked again early in the second half, pushing ahead 3-0 after Antonson took a throw-in from left sideline, then beat Hanke to the right corner of the goal with a hard, low, diagonal shot for the eventual 3-0 margin.
As they had in the first half, however, the Indians responded to adversity with solid play of their own. Senior Grace Negelspach set up her team's best scoring chance of the night when she fed the ball to Davidson for a miss just 5 yards out of goal on the right side with 31 minutes left to play.
"A major thing we learned is just once you get down, you can always come back up," Davidson said. "And once we were down 2-0, we still kept our heads in it. We just kept playing good and we got back up and we had some chances."
To their credit, however, the Wildcats made sure none of those chances came to fruition. Though Wilsonville wouldn't score again either, it challenged Hanke again and again with shots from Mermis, freshman Kenley Whittaker, freshman Ashlyn Ring and junior Jenna Weiss.
"My other forwards — Brighton (Ring), Ashlyn, (Crane) and Kinley especially — really helped," Antonson said. "It really helped us get three on the board."
"We had a close game last year … at their home field, so coming out here and getting this win was really big for us," Mermis added.
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