CORVALLIS — Ninety seconds into the game, the Philomath High girls soccer team found itself in a hole.
Playing Tuesday night in the first round of the Elite Eight Girls Soccer Showcase, the Warriors watched a 30-yard shot from Gladstone’s Brianna Lewis sail over the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper. The Gladiators had a 1-0 lead before anybody could work up a sweat.
COMING WEDNESDAY: LOOK FOR A PHOTO GALLERY FROM TUESDAY’S WIN
“That goal happened before the flow of the game had really started, so it was kind of hard to get a picture of what we needed to do,” PHS coach Mat Phelps said. “But the girls responded really, really well. It was kind of a fluke thing that happened and they responded.”
Senior Alivia Pittman scored the equalizer in the 15th minute and senior Kaili Saathoff found the net in the 75th to give the Warriors a 2-1 victory.
“We knew coming in it wasn’t going to be easy,” Saathoff said. “After playing Cascade (an 8-0 Warriors win), we were all just a little bit slow-starting so after the first few minutes, after their first goal, we got back into it.”
Pittman said the Gladstone goal woke up the team.
“It’s always a challenge getting back into it but I’m going to be honest, most of the time when a team scores against us we tend to come right back at them,” she said. “I think it’s a motivator in some sense, I mean, we should be motivated before that and I think we are a little bit but it helps if we have something that we really have to work for.”
Philomath did work hard in this one and although the game remained tied throughout most of the evening, the Warriors were winning balls and controlling possession.
On the team’s first goal, Pittman broke free down the right sideline, dribbled in and beat the keeper to get the Warriors on the scoreboard.
“Just like Woodburn, Gladstone has always been a big competitor,” Pittman said about the Gladiators. “It’s always fun to play them because it’s always in good spirit and it’s always competitive.”
The game was competitive through the rest of the first half and well into the second half — at least on the scoreboard. From the flow of the game and number of chances at the net, one could sense that the Warriors had the upper hand.
“We really controlled most of the game, our possession was good and we switched fields really well,” Phelps said. “It’s just the persistence of keeping going and that’s what we did all night, just being persistent and it paid off.”
At halftime, Pittman felt the team was in sync on what needed to be done in the second half.
“We had them figured out for the most part … learned how to break them down a little bit,” she said. “We couldn’t play kick-ball with them because otherwise, it was just the same thing back and forth. And so we learned how to settle it down and knew what to expect for the next half.”
Gladstone had a few opportunities through the first 10 minutes but Philomath persevered and created chances of its own. In the 53rd minute, Saathoff came close to scoring on a setup from freshman Bailey Bell, who received the ball from Pittman.
Pittman then had a couple of opportunities in the next few minutes — once after a corner kick and then after receiving a pass from Bell. In the 61st minute, Pittman again threatened the net after taking the ball from senior Chloe Jurva.
Gladstone’s goalkeeper made a one-handed save in the 63rd minute to rob senior Braedyn McNeely of a goal.
“We had a ton of chances,” Phelps said. “It could’ve been a higher score… their keeper made two phenomenal saves.”
Finally in the 75th minute, the Warriors took the lead. The play that led to the goal started on the other end of the field with Pittman just trying to figure out where to pass to maintain possession.
“Just kick it if you don’t know what to do with it,” one of her PHS teammates yelled out.
Pittman kicked it forward to sophomore Elizabeth Morales, who then beat a Gladstone defender and passed to Saathoff. The end result was the ball in the back of the net.
“It was basically the same as Liv’s goal … just a few touches and then try to not shoot right at the dot in the center,” Saathoff said.
In the final minutes, Gladstone made a few runs at the Warriors. Senior Mia Rust disrupted a Gladiators opportunity in the 77th minute and the Warriors cleared on a corner kick in the 78th.
Phelps believes the team is reaching an important point in the season.
“I think in a short season, it’s hard to get to know each other but we’re at that point now where we know each other and we know who’s supposed to be where defensively and who’s making the runs on the attack and it paid off,” he said.
Philomath will play again on Thursday with an Elite Eight Girls Soccer Showcase semifinal matchup against North Marion, a former Oregon West rival. As of Tuesday night, the time and site had not been determined.
Class 4A schools put together the showcase to serve as this shortened season’s state playoffs.
“They’re a very strong team and they have some quality seniors as well, just like us, that came in as freshmen,” Phelps said of North Marion, which advanced with a 3-2 win over Woodburn. “They were in our league at that point, so we played them a few times. I know they’re going to be a really good opponent.”
Philomath 2, Gladstone 1
Tuesday at Crescent Valley HS, Corvallis
|First Half: 1, Gladstone, Brianna Lewis, 2nd minute; 2, Philomath, Alivia Pittman, 15th minute.|
Second Half: 3, Philomath, Kaili Saathoff (Elizabeth Morales), 75th minute.
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