Philomath senior Kamilla Grimmer scores on a penalty kick late in the first half. Grimmer scored two of the team's three goals in the win over Molalla. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Keeping the pressure on was the name of the game Tuesday afternoon.

Philomath pushed hard in the second half and kept the Molalla defense on its heels, eventually producing the desired result. 

The Warriors’ Kamilla Grimmer scored off a free kick that provided a cushion as Philomath went on to a 3-1 home win in an OSAA 4A girls soccer first-round game.

The ball stayed on the offensive end for Philomath for much of the first 20 minutes after halftime. 

Grimmer and teammates Bailey Bell and Ana Candanoza led the barrage of shots on keeper Tillee Muffett and the Indians’ goal. Shots went narrowly off the crossbar or just missed left or right before the Warriors broke through in the 63rd minute. 

After getting fouled by Molalla’s Codie Gump, Grimmer sent a low, stinging liner toward Muffett. The ball took a fortuitous bounce just in front of the diving Muffett, over her head and into the net for a 3-1 Philomath lead and the only score of the second half. 

“I just remember (thinking), ‘I have to curve this. I have to do it, and if it doesn’t go in then somebody to be there to tap it in,’” said Grimmer, a senior forward.

“We were getting shots off and I knew we could get some in. I’m glad I finally got that one. But it’s a team effort and we were all passing really well. Just seeing how many shots we got, I’m surprised we didn’t score more because we were so close too many times.”

Philomath’s Heidi Bacho (1) Kamilla Grimmer (4) and the rest of the team celebrates following Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Molalla. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Fifth-seeded Philomath (13-2) moves on to a state quarterfinal to play the winner of Tuesday’s late first-round game between fourth-seeded Hidden Valley and 13th-seeded Ontario in Grants Pass.

The quarterfinal round is scheduled for Saturday. Philomath would be the road team with a Hidden Valley victory and at home should Ontario win.

With three Warrior soccer players (Candanoza, Melea Lattin and Kateri Pindell) scheduled to run in the 4A girls cross-country state championship race late Saturday morning in Eugene, Philomath soccer coach Mat Phelps said after Tuesday’s win that he hoped to move the quarterfinal to Friday.

Philomath kept Molalla (11-5) to few opportunities on its offensive end in the second half. Warriors keeper Heidi Bacho touched the ball on just three occasions after halftime and wasn’t required to make any saves in the last 40 minutes.

“We talked about that at halftime, being patient and making sure we’re running our style of play and it will come,” Phelps said.

Philomath senior Bailey Bell brings the ball downfield. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Philomath excelled at precise passes and moving without the ball, two focuses in practice, the coach said.

Molalla opened the game with a quick score in the fourth minute after a corner kick resulted in a ball in the box. Philomath answered in the 12th minute as Bell took an assist from Grimmer and found the net from long distance on the left side of the field. 

Grimmer added a penalty kick just before halftime for a 2-1 lead for the home team. Muffett guessed correctly on the direction of the boot but was late getting to the ball.

The Warriors have won eight straight games as the program heads to the state quarterfinals for the eighth time in as many years under Phelps. Philomath has allowed just four goals in that recent eight-game stretch,

“They’ve worked hard since August and before then. Just a really good group of girls,” Phelps said. “They’ve got each other’s backs and we feel like we can compete with anybody.”

Philomath junior Aspen Russell throws in the ball vs. the Indians. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

The team’s only losses on the season have come against top-seeded Marist Catholic and third-seeded North Marion. Philomath avenged a 2-1 loss to North Marion with a 6-2 home win in the second half of Oregon West Conference play to split the regular-season title.

Grimmer said, even as a senior, she was feeling the nerves of the postseason experience Tuesday and felt her heart beating fast in her chest.

But she and her team shook off whatever jitters they might have had early to take the lead and not let it get away from them.

The Warriors realized after going ahead just before the half that they could settle down and play their style.

“I am very proud of every single one of us,” Grimmer said. “It’s my senior year, so seeing all of us grow as a team and get better, I’m really happy with how the team’s working together and how we’re communicating and passing the ball.”

Jesse Sowa is a freelance sports writer based in the Mid-Valley. He worked several years as a reporter for the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald.