Lining up to take a penalty shot against two-time defending Class 5A champion Crescent Valley on Thursday night, Philomath senior Braedyn McNeely didn’t have any type of strategy in mind to beat the goalkeeper.
In fact, it was the first-ever PK that McNeely had taken in her high school soccer career. On top of that, she said practices so far this season hadn’t covered penalty kicks.
“I should’ve gone to the other side,” McNeely said laughing about the shot, which ended up bouncing off CV’s keeper. “I think I really just got lucky honestly.”
McNeely picked up the rebound and buried the ball in the net to get Philomath on the scoreboard with just over 1 minute remaining in the game.
“She played it perfectly,” PHS coach Mat Phelps said. “Braedyn was heads up and put it back in, so that was great.”
That’s not always the case, Phelps pointed out, with players often pausing and hanging their head on failed PKs.
Crescent Valley won the game, 3-1, but the contest was a battle throughout. In fact, the two teams were locked in a 0-0 through most of the first half.
“I was a little nervous coming into it and I think everybody was,” Philomath senior Mia Rust said. “They’re a very good program and have really talented players but I think we put up a good fight and kept going no matter what.”
Philomath’s defense withstood a few Crescent Valley offensives over the first 20 minutes. Rust cleared on more than one occasion with booming kicks from the back line and sophomore keeper Hailie Couture was getting her hands on everything.
“We know it was quite a good matchup, they’re back-to-back state champs, but we wanted to come in strong and just feel out our team and figure out where people need to go,” Rust said. “They’re in 5A, it’s not league, so there was no pressure on us. It was just to get out, run around and see what it’s actually like to play.”
Philomath had a few opportunities around the net but was not able to finish. The best chance came in the 28th minute off a Warriors corner kick that was placed in front of the net with Alivia Pittman in position. But Crescent Valley’s exceptional goalkeeper went high to grab the ball and end the threat.
In the 31st minute, Couture kept the game scoreless by diving on a ball with Crescent Valley bearing down on the net. But the Raiders were able to cash in on an opportunity 5 minutes later on a Valerie Lending goal.
“It actually felt pretty good, I think we surprised ourselves a lot,” McNeely said about the game. “A lot of us came into this with bad attitudes but we came out of it and surprised ourselves.”
In the opening minutes of the second half, senior Kaili Saathoff found the ball in the middle on a feed from McNeely but the Raiders quickly closed off the opportunity. Pittman and senior Phaedra Hinds-Cook were also creating some things in the first 10 minutes but CV survived it all.
In the 49th minute, Philomath had another decent chance at the net on a corner kick with Pittman in position. But again, the Raiders were able to clear.
Crescent Valley went up 2-0 in the 51st minute on an Abby Smith goal.
Philomath followed with some good defensive play, such as a K Bacho’s steal down the right sideline to stop a CV offensive in the 57th minute and Couture’s save at keeper in the 66th minute.
The Warriors later had an opportunity with CV’s keeper caught out of position. Saathoff had a chance but the Raiders dodged the bullet.
With 6:14 left in the game, Bailey O’Briant scored from about 10 yards out for a 3-0 lead.
“There’s definitely some things we feel like the breakdown happened a little bit earlier, letting them get into the space,” Phelps said. “They had some good finishes, so credit to their girls for finding the corners and taking some good shots.”
In the final minutes, Philomath made a run into the box and ended up with the PK that McNeely took.
“It’s really good for our girls to have that competition and really see where we’re at … what we need to work on, what were the positives and I think we accomplished all of that tonight,” Phelps said. “Obviously, we would’ve liked a win but I feel like our team played hard 80 full minutes.”
The game was played with no fans allowed in the stadium to create an eerie atmosphere. Sounds that could be heard included a chorus of frogs and the official’s electronic whistle.
“It feels really weird to just be out here with everyone and in masks with no one here reminding me of what basketball state was going to be like,” said Rust, a basketball standout that experienced last spring’s state tournament getting canceled. “But it was just good to get out here and play and run around with my friends again.”
Crescent Valley 3, Philomath 1
Thursday at Corvallis
|Crescent Valley (2-0)||1||2||3|
|First Half: 1, Crescent Valley, Valerie Lending, 36th minute.|
Second Half: 2, Crescent Valley, Abby Smith, 51st minute; 3, Crescent Valley, Bailey O’Briant, 74th minute; 4, Philomath, Braedyn McNeely, 79th minute.
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