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Return of the Giant Killers


by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - A dozen years after celebrating a surprising state championship win over six-time reigning champion Jesuit, many members of the squad remain in the Portland area. From left, Lindsay Clute, Katrina Heilman, Susie Nielson, coach Dick Bertelsen, Hayley Zeal, Chelsea Fuller and Melena Ertler. This was a group that was supposed to be forgotten. The Centennial High girls soccer team from 2000 was supposed to be the team that Jesuit rolled over to claim a seventh straight state championship.

But sometimes, the things that are supposed to happen don’t.

That was the case for this special group of 18 players, who came together on one glorious November afternoon to topple one of the state’s biggest dynasties.

The day started badly — very badly.

Pre-game warmups were such a mess that head coach Dick Bertelsen sent the team to the locker room early in hopes of loosening the tension.

“It didn’t matter what drills we were doing, the nerves had completely taken over — it was the worst warm-up I’ve ever seen,” Bertelsen says.

“Out of every game I’ve played, college included, that’s the most nervous I’ve ever felt,” Jamie Blakesley says. “I remember warming up and we couldn’t make a simple pass. I remember thinking to myself ‘this is going to be interesting if we can’t even connect on a three-foot pass’.”

Most of the players admit to still being nervous when they returned to the field for the opening whistle. But the Eagles held their own early in the match with Lindsay Clute banging a shot off the cross bar in the third minute.

Centennial added another lightning strike moments later when Kristen Sono made a throw-in to Melena Ertler, who worked into an opening and launched a shot from 30 yards out.

No chance this ball would find its way into the net — not from this far out against an elite goalie. But this was to be no ordinary day.

“I don’t remember much about the shot other than being surprised it went in — I took it from so far out,” Ertler says. “The ball had to be in just the perfect spot.”

“If it’s one inch higher it hits the post, if it’s one inch lower the goalie gets it,” Whitney Lilly says.

The Eagles had the lead, but no one was expecting it to be enough.

Afterall, the Jesuit boosters had already rented out a hall to celebrate victory and ordered championship T-shirts.

“I had friends on the other team from club ball, and they kept talking at me the entire game,” Lilly says.

The lead held up heading into intermission, but Jesuit came out with renewed focus for the final 40 minutes.

“I just remember blocking a whole bunch of shots — they really started pouring it on in the second half when they realized they might lose,” says Centennial goalie Katrina Heilman.

“Every time they took a shot, you held your breath, but Katrina had the game of her life,” Lilly says.

Heilman’s biggest save came with about 10 minutes to play when she raced to the edge of the box and made a diving block off the foot of a charging Caroline Dugoni from Jesuit. Ertler rushed onto the scene and cleared the ball away from an empty net to keep the Crusaders off the board.

“There were 10 seconds left, and I remember seeing Jesuit walking to pick up a ball out of bounds,” Bertelsen said. “That’s the first time I conceded that we were indeed going to win this thing.”

The loss ended Jesuit’s six-year stranglehold on the rest of the state and also ended the Crusaders’ 128-match streak without a loss.

“The special part for me was spending an incredible season with some of my best friends,” says Chelsea Fuller.

We caught up with 14 team members along with coach Dick Bertelsen. Check out our sidebar on what they are doing now in the Friday, Aug. 3, edition of The Outlook.