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PREP SOCCER: A lot unusual about 5A girls finalist Wilson Trojans


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JEFF GOODMAN - Wilson players Bethan Harper (left) and Dana Nathanson converge on Wilsonville's Ali Bourque in Tuesday's Class 5A semifinal, won by Wilson 1-0 at Wilsonville.The Wilson Trojans are not your usual state finalist.

They weren't on anyone's radar coming into the season.

They don't have a lot of club soccer players who have spent years playing together.

They use players from all four classes, with freshmen on the roster alongside seniors, juniors and sophomores.

They don't boast any All-Americans or a batch of highly recruited, major-college prospects.

They didn't have the player of the year or the coach of the year in their seven-team league.

They had two players on their all-league team. Another team, Cleveland, had five.

They didn't have a winning record in the regular season.

They went into the playoffs ranked No. 22 out of 38 Class 5A girls soccer teams.

Thus, a couple of months ago, no one in the Wilson program was anticipating having a game to play on Saturday, Nov. 16. A game for the state title.

"Nobody thinks about stuff like that," says Michele Potestio, Wilson's 20th-year coach. "Well, not teams like us.

"We knew we had graduated a lot of players, a lot of seniors. There were a lot of unknowns. We had no expectations, really, of what was going to happen."

Maybe that is part of the reason for Wilson's success, for how a team with a 4-6-3 regular-season record in a relatively weak PIL 5A could start to run the table -- all on the road -- against higher-ranked or powerhouse clubs.

In the last two weeks, the Trojans have knocked off No. 11-ranked Hood River Valley 3-1, No. 2 Sherwood 2-1 in overtime, No. 7 West Albany 3-1 and No. 3 Wilsonville 1-0 in Tuesday's semifinals.

"Maybe it's the team dinners and the sleepovers," Potestio says. "There's a bonding that happens off the field."

The players arrived for preseason training "from all over the place," Potestio says. "We put them on the field and tried to build a team out of them. "Goals? We just wanted to have a great season and see what would happen."

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JEFF GOODMAN - Wilson's Kennedy Reed (left) battles with Wilsonville's Riley Johnson.What's happening Saturday is a 1 p.m game at Hillsboro Stadium for what would be the first state soccer championship at Wilson since the Trojan girls -- with center midfielder Potestio in the lineup -- shared the crown with Aloha in a 0-0 draw in 1977 at Civic Stadium.

By now, Potestio for sure is not surprised by anything the 2013 Trojans do.

"It's just a group that really likes one another and likes playing soccer," she says. "We set our sights on enjoying one another and playing hard for each other. They appreciate what each other brings to the field. They have a strong mentality. They're fighters."

And they've overcome adversity.

Twenty minutes into the season-opening 3-1 loss against St. Mary's Academy, the Trojans lost one of their key players for the rest of the year, as center back McKenzie Hopfer blew out an ACL.

Then, late in the regular season, starting goalkeeper Jackie Hudson went out with a freak concussion, when a ball ricocheted off the crossbar during warmups and struck her in the back of the head.

"We've had other injuries," Potestio says, "but the girls have adjusted so much. They found a way to do it."

Tuesday's game at Wilsonville was just the latest example. The teams were battling at 0-0 when sophomore Carly Meyers' corner kick came to the near post and caught a pair of Wildcats defenders off guard. The ball bounced off one of them and into the net before the Wilsonville goalie could react.

About 16 minutes remained in the match, and they were anxious moments for Potestio.

"You need to get refocused. There's a lot of game to play. Soccer is a game you have to play till the whistle blows," Potestio says. "And Wilsonville pushed hard and had a lot of good chances (to equalize).

"Some of their shots just went wide, and some of their corner kicks just went long, and on some of their shots our defenders got in the way."

But the final whistle blew with Wilson still on top, having avenged a 3-1 early-season loss, also at Wilsonville.

What was the difference this time?

"They have a lot of quick, attack-minded players, and we played a lot of different people and in different places, in positions where they have more confidence and where their skills and abilities are maybe used better for the team overall," Potestio says. "And this team has grown a lot as a team over the season."

It was a "solid game by both teams," Potestio says. "Both teams played well. Both teams had chances. We just got lucky. We got one put it, and they didn't."

Potestio, who teaches social studies at Wilson, says the school has come along for the playoff ride.

"Absolutely. Everybody's excited," she says. "A lot of coaches, former coaches, former parents and players and others have been there on the sidelines, cheering us on. It's made this really special for the girls."

Saturday's opponent is the No. 1-ranked team in 5A, Summit. The Storm are 16-0-2. They beat Sherwood 3-0 in last year's 5A title game, capping a 15-0-2 season.

"They're probably a juggernaut," Potestio says. "They've been No. 1 pretty much all year and have been taking everybody down. I expect them to be a well-oiled machine."

The Storm have outscored their opponents 83-11 this season. They beat Bend in the semifinals 2-1 on Tuesday, after opening playoff victories of 6-1 against Parkrose and 4-0 versus Putnam.

Potestio says she won't have any video to watch as research, and "I don't know who to call" for scouting reports on Summit.

"We just know they're going to be good at every position," she says, "so we have to be good at every position."by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JEFF GOODMAN - Bethan Harper (left) and Ellie Harper (right) of Wilson get the ball away from a Wilsonville player.