Girls soccer: The Wolves advance to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win over the Cougars
TUALATIN - That was close.
Inches - maybe less.
The Tualatin High School girls soccer team, with senior goalkeeper Celeste Cota-Wockenfuss and junior defender Hana Dempsey teaming up for a crucial save - coming right as the ball was about to cross over the goal line - with 29 seconds left to play, held off Canby to score a nail-biting 2-1 victory in a Class 6A state playoff second-round match played Tuesday at Tualatin High School.
'That was really nerve-wracking, for sure,' an overjoyed Dempsey said after the win. 'But we're a team that comes through. We always play as hard as we can.'
'Right now, I'm just happy,' Cota-Wockenfuss said. 'That was really close.'
With the loss, Canby, the No. 3 team out of the Three Rivers League, finished its season with a final overall record of 7-6-3.
Tualatin, the Pacific Conference champ, improved to 16-0 on the season. The Timberwolves also advance to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. They'll meet Southridge in the quarterfinals Saturday in a match starting at 2 p.m. at Southridge High School.
'I'm really excited about that,' Cota-Wockenfuss said. 'I know a lot of girls on that team. We'll need to stay focused and stay calm.'
'We want to go as far as possible,' Dempsey said. 'We just need to keep working hard in practice. We have a lot of potential. I think we're at about 75 percent right now. We have a lot we can still improve on.'
And, as they move forward, the Wolves, who outscored their previous 15 opponents this season by an 82-0 margin, now also know they can handle a pressure-packed contest.
'This was really big for us,' Cota-Wockenfuss said. 'We haven't played many teams who are that good. Now we're prepared.'
Tualatin, in Tuesday's match, took a 1-0 lead when senior forward Cassie Baldwin scored on a shot from 25 yards out off an assist from freshman Kyla Hackelman, coming with 24 minutes and 2 seconds left in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolf defense, including junior Mollie Freel, sophomore Maddie Campbell, Dempsey and junior Makena Carkner, limited Canby to just one shot on goal in the first 40 minutes, helping the Wolves keep the 1-0 lead going into halftime.
But, with 37:08 left in the match, Canby tied the contest at 1-1 when senior Olivia Thoroughman hit a high, hard shot into the upper left side of the Tualatin goal. It was the first goal the Wolves have given up all season, ending a shutout span that reached 1,242 minutes and 52 seconds of playing time.
But that seemed to fire up Tualatin as, soon after, the Wolves got shots by both Dempsey and sophomore Audrey DePaepe.
Then, with 30:36 remaining, Tualatin regained the lead on a goal by sophomore Lauren Helmreich. Baldwin started the scoring play with a pass from the right side to senior Megan Freel in the middle. Freel batted the ball to Helmreich, who hit her shot into the Cougar goal from 14 yards out.
Tualatin kept the pressure on after that. A free kick shot from 28 yards out by Timberwolf junior midfielder Kelsey Wagner was saved on a dive by Canby goalkeeper Brittany Haak with 17:28 left to play. Five minutes later, Haak made a diving deflection on a hard ground shot by Helmreich.
But, as time was starting to run down, Canby turned up the intensity.
Then, in the final minute of the contest, Cougar junior Karley Baggerly hit a cross from the right sideline to senior Brittany Gillespie in front of the Tualatin goal. From close range, Gillespie, with just 29 seconds remaining, hit a flick shot toward the right side of the goal.
Cota-Wockenfuss was able to deflect the shot, but it still appeared that the ball was going to bound over the goal line.
That's when Dempsey stepped up with her heroics.
'I thought it was going to go in,' she said. 'I was thinking 'oh, crap.' My last thought was to just kick it away.'
She did - just in the nick of time.
'I think the ball was about 75 percent over the line,' Dempsey said. 'But I thought the ref might still call it a goal.'
So Dempsey, and pretty much everyone else, looked at the officials for the call.
'Oh my gosh. That was so crazy,' Dempsey said.
'I can't even describe it,' Cota-Wockenfuss said. 'My mind went blank.'
Soon after, the Wolves were celebrating their victory.
'That's the playoffs,' Tualatin coach Rossano Rocha said. 'The run we had in league was nice, but now things will keep getting tougher and tougher. Canby did a fantastic job tonight. But our kids responded well.'
Tualatin got other good news on Tuesday as standout senior Anna-Marie Popma gained medical clearance earlier in the day and played about 35 minutes in the match with Canby. Popma suffered a broken collarbone in a match with McMinnville on Oct. 11 and it was thought that her season was likely over.
Prior to the win over Canby, the Wolves posted a 3-0 victory over South Eugene in a state playoff first-round match played Friday at Tualatin.
Sophomore Jill Farley scored a pair of goals in the win and Wagner had the other goal. Baldwin had a pair of assists.