PHS senior Hailie Couture makes a save on Lanie Cox's penalty kick in the 75th minute to keep the game tied, 2-2. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Listed at 5-foot-6 on Philomath High’s girls soccer roster, senior Hailie Couture seemed much bigger standing in front of the net on Wednesday in a first-round 4A girls soccer playoff game. The Philomath standout exudes confidence and complements that presence with an aggressive demeanor to try to throw off opposing players who are about to take a penalty shot.

“I do a stare-down and try to intimidate them,” Couture laughed after Philomath’s 3-2 win over Henley on Wednesday in a game that came down to penalty kicks. “And you could tell those girls were nervous. So, I just watch them and try to look at where they’re going to kick it and then give it my best shot at getting to the ball.”

The game went to PKs after it could not be decided through 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes. In the shootout, Philomath made all three of its attempts while Henley failed on all four of its tries.

“She gets beat up a lot when we do these penalty kicks in practice because we’ve got a lot of good penalty takers,” PHS coach Mat Phelps said. “So she’s constantly pushing herself to try to make saves on these really good players on our own team and that showed … she was ready.”

Junior Kamilla Grimmer scored Philomath’s first PK with a shot to the lower left. After Couture blocked a shot, Warriors junior Bailey Bell followed with another successful shot toward the lower left. Henley’s second and third shots also failed and then PHS sophomore Melea Lattin went low right for the team’s third PK goal. Henley had one final attempt to try to keep the shootout going but the attempt hit the crossbar and bounced harmlessly back onto the grass.

Philomath’s players rushed toward the goal to celebrate.

PHS junior Bailey Bell moves the ball toward the 18-yard box against the Hornets. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Warriors (11-3-1) will now head to Eugene on Saturday for a quarterfinals showdown against No. 1 Marist Catholic. The two teams played back on Sept. 1 with Philomath falling to the Spartans, 2-0, in its season opener.

Penalty kicks are rare during the regular season so players don’t get a lot of practice with them, especially in the type of pressure situation seen in a game that comes down to PKs.

“We don’t practice them a ton during the season but we do practice them every day when we know that we’ve qualified for the postseason,” Phelps said. “The girls knew their roles, they knew their positions and they were confident.”

Although the PKs at the end provided high-stakes drama to determine the winner, Couture’s biggest save of the afternoon occurred with only five minutes remaining in regulation. Henley had drawn a foul in the penalty box to get a free shot at the goal. Conversion percentages show that the shooter has the advantage but Couture beat the odds and made a diving save to her right to keep the game tied, 2-2.

“I could tell she was going to go that way,” Couture said, explaining that she watches their eyes and reacts to how they run up to the ball and take their swing. “Some of them are really good at it and can juke me out but I feel like it’s a lot of luck. I have like a 10% chance of actually saving it.”

Sophomore Petra Hernandez shoots on goal in the second half. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath fell into a 1-0 hole in the 17th minute when Henley junior Mya Mauch took a pass from midfield by freshman Rachel Edwards and finished with an arching shot over Couture’s outstretched hands into the high corner.

The Warriors responded six minutes later with the equalizer on a Grimmer goal on a follow-up shot off the Henley defense. Senior Mia Cook was credited with an assist.

“I think we started out really strong; we didn’t get the goals that we thought we could get early on and the other team squeezed one in,” Phelps said. “We had to battle and so from there on out, they built confidence and we realized we had to battle and we did.”

The game remained tied 1-1 through intermission.

“I think the adversity that they faced early on in the season helped — those losses to North Marion and Newport — they really helped us have that mentality of it’s not over, we’ve got to keep working,” Phelps said.

In the second half, Philomath took a 2-1 lead when Bell found the net on a corner kick by senior Elizabeth Morales. The goal occurred in the 51st minute and the Warriors took that slim lead into the final 10 minutes of regulation.

PHS senior Izabella Nanoski makes a pass in the first half. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In the 70th minute, freshman Lillian Poole scored to tie the score. The penalty kick opportunity for the Hornets and the Couture save occurred five minutes later.

Philomath had a significant advantage of 32-8 when it came to shots on goal.

“Their keeper played really well and we struggled to beat her,” Phelps said. “But I felt like we had a lot of chances and we need to work on making those a little more-quality chances.”

In the first overtime, Philomath nearly scored in the opening minute on a sprint toward the net by sophomore Petra Hernandez but the Hornets escaped the situation. Bell had a good look in the second OT but the shot missed to the right. With neither team scoring, the game advanced to PKs.

“I’m glad that we just came out with it,” Couture said. “I’m really proud of this team. I feel like we have a lot of stuff to work on but this outcome, it’s very rewarding as a senior.”

The Warriors have now won nine straight games.

“I think the three of us captains just realized that we want to go for something more this year,” Couture said — the other two team captains being Cook and Morales. “We weren’t happy with losing those close games, so we changed our mentality.”

As Phelps also mentioned, Philomath lost back-to-back 1-0 games in the same week to Newport and North Marion — two teams that also have advanced to the quarterfinals, by the way.

Couture said she did something after the losses to try to instill confidence in the players.

“I brought to practice these cards that said ‘we’re going to win a state championship’ and everybody believed it,” she said. “And so we’re gonna go and win a state championship. We just gotta keep working … everybody’s put in the work so it’s really cool to see.”

The Philomath-Marist game has been scheduled for a 5 p.m. start on Saturday. The Spartans scored goals in the opening minutes of each half to post the win. They bring a record of 15-1 into the game, their lone loss coming to a 5A opponent.

Said Phelps, “The girls are feeling confident and ready to take on anybody at this point.”


Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.