The Wolves complete a 19-0 season by scoring a 1-0 win over Sunset in the Class 6A state title tilt
HILLSBORO - It just doesn't get any better than that.
There was a milestone goal.
There was a very, very, very, very happy birthday.
There was a clutch, late-match defensive stand.
And, in the end, there was one amazing championship celebration.
The Tualatin High School girls soccer team wrapped up its perfect 2011 season in spectacular fashion, scoring a 1-0 win over Sunset in the Class 6A state championship game played Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.
'Words can't explain this,' Tualatin senior forward Anna-Marie Popma said during the Timberwolves' victory celebration. 'It's an amazing feeling.'
'Oh my gosh, this is so special,' Tualatin junior defender Hana Dempsey said. 'It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing.'
'I'm so excited,' said Tualatin senior midfielder Megan Freel, who also celebrated her 18th birthday on Saturday. 'I can't think of a better birthday present. This is so special.'
Sunset, the No. 2 team out of the Metro League, finished its season with a final record of 14-3-2. Tualatin, which previously won state titles in 2005 and 2006, finished its season with a perfect mark of 19-0-0.
'This is a huge deal,' Dempsey said. 'We're bringing back our title for our school. I'm so glad to be a part of this.'
The 19-0-0 record is the best in Tualatin school history, as the 2005 Timberwolf title team went 16-0-3 and the 2006 Tualatin championship squad went 16-0-2.
'It's awesome,' Tualatin coach Rossano Rocha said. 'It's not every day you get to do this. For us, it all started in August. We worked hard and we had a focus. I had a direction to take this group full steam ahead. It worked to perfection and we never looked back.'
'We worked so hard for his,' Tualatin senior forward Cassie Baldwin said. 'I can't put it into words.'
'We worked so hard all season to get this far,' Tualatin junior midfielder Kelsey Wagner said. 'It's the greatest feeling.'
And the Wolves had to work hard against the persistent Sunset team.
'Give them props. They were good,' Popma said. 'But we were defensively strong all game. We kept it up.'
Tualatin, while not getting the winning goal until Popma converted a penalty kick with just under 11 minutes elapsed in the second half, kept the pressure on throughout the contest.
Wagner and Timberwolf junior defender Makena Carkner each had free kick shots on goal in the first 17 minutes of the match, with Sunset sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Luty making the save on each shot.
Wagner and Dempsey each had shots from 25 yards out sail over the crossbar of the Apollo goal later in the half.
Then, with 7 minutes and 40 seconds left in the first half, Baldwin, driving hard toward the Sunset goal, hit a shot from eight yards out, but Luty, running out, was able to make a diving block of the attempt.
Sunset, as well, had a prime scoring opportunity before the first half ended. With 2:22 showing on the clock, Sunset senior Kristen Jondahl hit a close-range shot off a corner kick that looked to be a sure goal for the Apollos. But Tualatin sophomore Maddie Campbell was able to block the ball before it went over the line and then Timberwolf sophomore Megan Landmark cleared the ball away, preserving the scoreless tie going into halftime.
Tualatin came out with a blaze of furry to start the second half. Popma had a running shot from 15 yards out that sailed just barely wide left of the Sunset goal. Just a couple minutes later, Baldwin had back-to-back shots at the Apollo goal.
Then, with 29:22 left to play in the second half, it happened.
Baldwin, driving up field, hit a pass up ahead to Popma in front of the Sunset goal. Popma hit a hard shot on line, but Luty was able to dive and block the shot. The ball bounded back toward Popma, who was lying on the turf, she quickly got up and hit another shot. Sunset junior Ashley Rogers, standing in front of the goal, put her arms up to block the ball. The whistle blew, a handball was called, and The Wolves were awarded a penalty kick.
'I was thinking 'OK, get a shot and do what I can,' Popma said.
Popma was back lying on the turf, hurting after landing on her shoulder.
'I was hurting, but I said 'I'm taking the PK,'' she said.
She did - and she nailed it. Popma drilled her penalty kick shot past a diving Luty into the right side of the Sunset goal to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead.
'I went the same way - I'll never change,' Popma said. 'It felt incredible. I just started jumping up and down.'
The goal was doubly special for Popma, as it was also her 100th career goal at Tualatin.
'That was awesome,' Rocha said. 'It couldn't have been written up any better.'
'To get No. 100 here made it huge,' Popma said with a smile.
The Wolves kept the pressure on following the milestone goal, getting shots from Carkner and Baldwin.
But, as time started ticking away, Sunset tried its best to battle back. The Apollos got a hard shot on goal by senior Alicia Alarcon from 15 yards out with 14:38 remaining to play, with her shot bending just wide left of the Tualatin goal.
From there, the Timberwolves stood strong on defense while also waiting for the final few minutes to tick away.
'Those last minutes felt like they took so long,' Baldwin said.
'They took forever,' Tualatin junior midfielder Mollie Freel said.
But, with its defense standing tall, Tualatin started its celebration when the scoreboard clock finally hit 0:00.
'I just ran to my teammates. It was an amazing feeling,' Popma said. 'The first thing I thought about was that it was Megan's birthday, and how great that was.'
'It was the best feeling ever,' said Baldwin, who added that she was aching from all the hits she took during the contest. 'I'm really, really sore, but it's still the greatest feeling. It was all worth it. We all really wanted to win.'
'It's really special and it hasn't really hit me yet,' Mollie Freel said. 'We worked so hard for this and it all went by so fast.'
'It was crazy,' Megan Freel said. 'I'm really emotional right now. And to do this with my sister is very special. I'm going to have a double celebration.'
Tualatin had 15 shots in the contest while the stingy Timberwolf defense limited Sunset to just three shots.
'Our defense is strong,' Dempsey said with a smile.
Saturday's contest marked the final high school match for Tualatin seniors Celeste Cota-Wockenfuss, Popma, Megan Freel and Baldwin.
'We've worked a long time for this,' Megan Freel said.
'We're all real close,' Baldwin said.
Other members of the state championship Tualatin team include sophomore Kelly Skoglund, freshman Aryana Harvey, sophomore Jill Farley, junior Sarah Jacobson, junior Erica Bruce, freshman Adina Goodwin, sophomore Audrey DePaepe, freshman Kyla Hackelman, sophomore Alyssa Durdel and freshman Natalie Shen. Mike Bass, Kalé Dwight and Chris Lieuallen are assistant coaches.