by: PHIL HAWKINS - Zuly Vasquez and the Bulldogs will try to advance past the first game of the post-season after Woodburn was beaten in the opening rounds of 2009, 2010 and 2011.Despite finishing the regular season without wins in their final three games, the Woodburn girls soccer team finished in the top 16 of the final OSAA rankings and will host a play-in game against Liberty Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Bulldogs were ranked 10th as recently as Oct. 21 after going on a stretch of four wins in five games, but the team was outscored 9-2 over their final three games of the season against Crescent Valley (1-1 draw), West Albany (3-0 loss) and Corvallis (5-1 loss).

The late-season slump put Woodburn in danger of falling out of the top 16 of the rankings, which carry the advantage of a guaranteed home game in the post-season, but when the final OSAA rankings were calculated Wednesday evening, the Bulldog girls finished at No. 16 and were the final team to earn a home game in the play-in round.

Woodburn will play host to the Liberty Falcons (6-8, 4-3 Northwest), the fourth-place team out of the Northwest Oregon Conference. The Falcons started the season with a 3-1 against No. 9 Hillsboro (6A), but went on to lose six of their next seven games before rebounding with a 4-2 record over the final three weeks of the season.

The win over Hillsboro is Liberty’s only victory over a team with a winning record, but the Falcons’ sub-.500 record is offset by the team’s difficult schedule, which includes games against nine teams that are either ranked in the top 10 or in the 6A classification.

The Bulldogs (7-6-1, 3-3-1 Mid-Willamette) return to the postseason for the fourth time in five years. Woodburn is seeking a win over Liberty to advance to the 16-team tournament bracket after getting ousted in their first game of the playoffs in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The team finished fifth in the Mid-Willamette Conference and shared four common opponents with the Falcons this season. Both teams lost to Glencoe (6A) and No. 3 Wilsonville, though Liberty played the two teams closer in a pair of 1-0 losses.

The Falcons lost to No. 6 Crescent Valley, while Woodburn scored a 1-1 draw against the Raiders on Oct. 22. Liberty also earned a 6-0 win over St. Helens, a team that beat Woodburn 2-1 in September.

The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to the 16-team OSAA tournament bracket and will play on the road Tuesday against one of the top eight teams in the state.

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