The Gladiators handle La Salle Prep and they lock up their third straight conference title

Gladstone's girls soccer team was all business last week, as the Gladiators clinched their third straight league championship.

The Gladiators upped their league record to 9-0 (11-2-0 overall) with convincing wins over North Marion (4-1) and over cross-town rival La Salle (4-0).

Molalla (8-5-0, 6-3) finished last week in second place in the Capital Conference. The two teams were to finish up regular-season play on Tuesday (Nov. 1), battling one another at Gladstone.

The Gladiators were also league champions in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010. They were state champions in 2009 and they made the state semifinals last fall.

Ranked second in the state and riding an 11-game win string, the Gladiators host 19th-ranked Astoria (6-6-1), the No. 4 team from the Cowapa League, Saturday in the play-in round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

'If we keep playing our game - moving ball around with unselfish play - we're going to be tough in the playoffs,' said Gladstone coach Steve Thomas.

Amber Jensen and defense were the keys in last Thursday's shutout at La Salle. Jensen played a part in all four Gladiator goals and the Gladiator defense held the host Falcons to just two shots on-frame. Jensen had a goal and three assists.

Jensen set up Gladstone's first goal just nine minutes into the contest, when she headed the ball over La Salle's defense following a long clear. Brita Kintz did the rest, on a breakaway.

Ten minutes latter, Maddie Cronin put the ball in play with a long throw-in, Jensen flicked it to Kelsey Hathaway at the six-yard line, and Hathaway put it away.

Jensen added a third first-half goal, with the assist going to Hathaway.

The Gladiators made it 4-0 eighteen minutes into the second period. Rylee Jones cleared with a long ball up the middle. Jensen headed the ball behind the defense; Hathaway ran onto it and left-footed it inside the far post from 16 yards out.

La Salle packed the back in the first half, and the Gladiators had a clear advantage, taking 17 shots, nine of them on-frame.

The second half was more back-and-fourth, but the Gladiators maintained control.

'The key was being patient on offense, and outstanding play by our defense,' said Thomas.

The Gladstone soccer boss singled out central defenders Meagan Bartz and Taylor Plunkett, outside defenders Cronin and Mikaela Simac and defensive midfielder Riley Jones for their standout play on defense.

Jensen put Gladstone up 1-0 just four minutes into last week's game with North Marion. Haleigh Murrell put the ball in play with a corner kick. Hathaway flicked it to Jensen, and Jensen back-heeled it into the net.

Jensen found the net again just before the intermission. Following a corner kick, Jones volleyed a defensive clear to Jones, who volleyed the ball into the net.

The Gladiators got a scare near the midpoint of the second half, when North Marion trimmed Gladstone's lead to 2-1 with a penalty kick, following a handball.

A minute later, Kendall Schumaker stole the ball and sent it ahead to Cheyenne Stubblefield, who crossed it in for a more comfortable 3-1 advantage.

Hathaway made it 4-1 with 11 minutes to play. Murrell put the ball in play with a corner kick, McKenna Hopkins volleyed it to Hathaway, and Hathaway did the rest.

'North Marion packed the back and we weren't patient enough,' said Thomas. 'We weren't making the extra pass.'

The Gladiators still dominated the play, with 13 shots on-frame, to only two by the Huskies.

Thomas said his seniors, although they haven't been doing a lot of scoring, have played a huge part in Gladstone's success this fall, with their leadership on the field and unselfish play.

'The seniors have been some of our leading scorers in past seasons,' said Thomas. 'Haleigh Murrell was offensive player of the year two years ago. This year we've needed the seniors to play other roles, and they've responded without complaint….

'The seniors have 15 state playoff games under their belts, and their leadership on the field is one of the main reasons we've been successful [this fall].'

The Gladiators' 19-player varsity roster includes six seniors: Jones, Kintz, Murrell, Bartz, Ashley Beykovsky and Andrea Dumolt.

Falcons eye tie for 2nd

Heading into Saturday's Class 4A girls soccer play-in round, it appeared that La Salle would enter postseason play as the No. 3 seed from the Tri-Valley Conference.

The Falcons entered play this week a game back of Molalla, in third place in the Tri-Valley League standings.

The Falcons were scheduled to play Estacada on Tuesday (Nov. 1), while the Indians were scheduled to meet league champion Gladstone at Gladstone.

If things go according to form, La Salle and Molalla will tie for second place in the TVC. And Molalla will get the TVC's No. 2 seed in the state playoff play-in round, because the Indians are ranked higher in the OSAA rankings.

Heading into play this week, the OSAA ranked Molalla seventh in the state in Class 4A, and La Salle twelfth.

The top four teams from the TVC advance to the play-in round, where they'll square off with the top four teams from the Cowapa League - with the top two teams from each league getting the home field advantage.

In games last week, the Falcons fell to Gladstone 4-0, after a 4-2 comeback-win over Molalla.

The Falcons spotted the Indians a 2-0 advantage, after giving up a pair of goals to Claire Thomas in the first 12 minutes.

La Salle coach Ryan Cereghino said his charges marked the Indians a lot tighter in the final 60 minutes of play, as they rallied to the 4-2 comeback-win.

'The last 60 minutes was the most consistent 60 minutes we've played all year,' Cereghino said.

Molalla's 2-0 lead was short-lived.

Two minutes after Thomas' second goal, La Salle freshman Claire Primack blasted a shot through a crowd and into the net.

And six minutes after that, La Salle junior Amanda Byrne ran onto a poorly cleared ball and beat Molalla's keeper one-on-one for a 2-2 tie.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, La Salle sophomore keeper Sydney Chvilicek made a huge save on a Molalla fast break.

And five minutes later, Elise Christoferson's hard cross from the left wing deflected off a Molalla defender and into the net for the game-winner.

Byrne put the ball into the net off a corner from Joslynn Bigelow as time was winding down to give the Falcons their winning tally.

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