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PREP SOCCER: Young, spirited Wilson girls 'really wanted it'

Trojans will face Summit on Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium in their first state finals appearance since 1977


by: JEFF GOODMAN / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Wilson midfielder Mara McLaughlin (left) battles Wilsonville senior Savannah Stehman for possession in a Class 5A girls soccer semifinal Nov. 12. The Trojans advanced to the title match for the first time since 1977 with a win over the Wildcats.WILSONVILLE — One fortuitous bounce was all the Wilson girls soccer team needed Tuesday night to continue its magical postseason run.

On a second-half corner kick by Trojans sophomore Carly Meyers, the ball ricocheted off a Wilsonville player and zipped into the net before the goalkeeper could make a play on it.

It ended up being the only goal of the match, a thrilling 1-0 triumph for Wilson in the Class 5A semifinals.

Members of the team celebrated in a dog pile on the field before being greeted by fans who had traveled from Portland to form a sizable cheering section at Randall Stadium.

The Trojans (8-6-3), seeded 15th out of 16 teams, who were winless through eight games this year, extended their miraculous season and earned a trip to the state title match for the first time since 1977, when they tied Aloha 0-0. They will face Summit in the 1 p.m. Saturday finals at Hillsboro Stadium.

“It means the world to come through like this, being such an underdog,” senior forward Kenna Meinhart said. “It’s everything. At first, we didn’t know we would even get into the playoffs, to be honest. But now that we realize we have the personnel, we have the heart and we have the fire, we can do anything we want.

“Early in the season, we were struggling with injuries and trying to find ourselves, but we started to build and realized who we are and what we’re capable of.”

Wilson didn’t look like a finals-bound team entering PIL 5A play. It went 0-6-2 in a tough preseason slate that included games against six 6A opponents.

But since losing to Lincoln by one goal on the road Oct. 3, the Trojans have engineered an incredible turnaround.

They’ve gone unbeaten in nine consecutive games, outscoring opponents by a combined 40-7. They advanced to the playoffs with a play-in win at Hood River Valley and upset Sherwood and West Albany to reach the semifinals.

In the penultimate round of the OSAA bracket, they avenged their September 3-1 loss to the Wildcats (12-4-1).

“We’ve had a lot of kids lost to injuries, and every game there’s been a new lineup,” said 20th-year Wilson coach Michele Potestio, who was a Trojans junior when the shared the state crown with Aloha. “You’re just trying to see what’s going to gel. If it happens later better than earlier, that’s just the gift. Some things, in that way, sorted themselves out.”

In a tightly contested match with scoring at a premium, Wilson was rewarded for its aggressive play by getting a corner kick from the right side in the 64th minute.

Meyers, the team’s corner specialist, sent the ball into the box and watched as it hit Wilsonville defender Alex Monello and continued into the net before goalkeeper Bess Kitzmiller could make a play on the own goal.

“I’m usually just looking to lob it into the center or curl it,” Meyers said. “We’ve been the underdogs, and we’ve just had a lot of determination and really wanted it. We really grew as a team throughout the season. And since we’re moving to 6A next year, it would be big to finally win 5A.”

The Wildcats spent the final 15 minutes of the match trying to manufacture a goal. They got a few feet on a high-arching ball from the right corner in the 70th minute, but the Trojans cleared it away.

Wilson sophomore goalkeeper Nikki Hogan and her teammates successfully defended a few more potential equalizers in the final two minutes.

“They’re young and they’re spirited, and they have great leadership from the seniors,” Potestio said, of her players. “You can’t go into the season hoping or predicting. You just go in and work at it and see what happens. ... We’re just playing and enjoying playing with each other.”