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Tribe girls' soccer headed to first title match in school history

A 3-1 win over La Salle thanks to goals from Lucy Davidson and Natalie Muth ink the Tribe's place in the 4A championship game.


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Senior defender Jenny Vardanega gets caught up in the moment, just after the match went final. For a senior like Vardanega, the trip to the title match is especially sweet, as the Indians have failed to reach the championship despite being a perennial power.The Scappoose girls' soccer team is headed to the championship game for the first time in school history. A pair of goals from sophomore Lucy Davidson and a score from Natalie Muth led the Indians in a 3-1 win over La Salle, cementing the Tribe's place in Saturday's title game against La Grande at Liberty High School.

The Indians got off to an extremely fast start. A bad touch from the defense let the ball fall to the foot of Davidson, and a deft touch put Scappoose up 1-0 after just 56 seconds of play. Natalie Muth put the home side up 2-0 in the 29th minute with a run in to the 18 yard box, and the Indians took a 3-0 lead on a great give and go from Eleanor Jones to Davidson mid way through the second half.

A penalty kick gave La Salle life late in the final frame, but tough defense and continued pressure in the attacking third were too much for the Falcons to handle, and Scappoose escaped with a victory and with just one match between them and a long-awaited title.

From the very first practice, head coach Nicholas Heffernan knew he had a special team on his hands.

“After the first practice session, you could just tell the quality (of the players),” he said. “I coach club and I've played myself, and in just ten minutes you could see the quality of the girls I've got, and I thought it was going to make my job a lot easier.”

As it turns out, Heffernan was right. The roster is full of players with club experience and became a group who had bonded better than any he had been around. Given the high level of talent he was handed at the beginning of his tenure, Heffernan knew a state championship was more than a goal. It was a solid possibility, even after the loss of scoring sensations Ariel Viera and Charlie Davidson.

What's more, it was in the first game of the season where the Indians lost senior keeper Alix Raya for the year. That match ended as a 5-1 loss for Scappoose, and they would lose keeper Jessica Dykes in practice a few days later. Dykes returned in the middle of the season, but a scary head injury during the Indians' quarterfinal match with Gladstone knocked her out – literally – for the remainder of the post-season. Sam Darr, a sophomore not likely to see the field as often behind Raya and Dykes, was called on to step in.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Sophomore Natalie Muth winds her way toward the goal late in the first half. It was Muth's strike in the 29th minute that gave the Indians a 2 goal lead. "At the beginning of the game she was … shaking, shaking, shaking,” said Heffernan. He and Raya, who has been an added voice on the bench all season long, did their best to calm Darr's nerves. “She didn't show that she was nervous. She came for balls. She didn't stay on her goal line. She was kicking it amazingly (well). She saved shots. To stick someone in there like [Darr] and for her to to a job that well, props go out to her. She's an amazing girl.”

Darr made a handful of saves against a Falcon team who had dominated the Indians early in the season. The biggest difference, though, was on the offensive end. Throughout the game, and especially in the first half, Scappoose won almost every ball in the air, and threatened to break the game wide open. The smart, accurate passes and the ability to patiently pull the ball back and look for a better opportunity are a large part of what makes Scappoose so dangerous, and it's taken time to put everything together.

“At the beginning of the season when we played [La Salle], we weren't the team we are now,” said Davidson, who has begun take over games as of late. “That win against Gladstone really put us in a good place because we already had momentum going and I think we really came out to play.”

Though the victory and the trip to the championship match are an impressive feat, for Heffernan and the girls there is only one way they'll be satisfied.

“All the work that lead up to Gladstone and La Salle, there's no point in going to the final and thinking 'oh, we made the final. Great.' If you're going to be there, you're there to win, and we're gonna win,” said Heffernan. “The girls are confident and they're happy and we're just going to keep the train going.”

As dominant the win was, it could have been even bigger. Jones shot from 40 yards out, but had her rocket tipped over the crossbar. A few moments later, Madison Verzino's shot glanced off the crossbar and out for a goal kick. A few inches difference with either shot, and the Indians would have been looking at a 5-1 victory.

“It shows how much they want it, and it shows, again, that we've made a really good side look average,” said Heffernan. “It has nothing to do with La Salle. They gave it their all and they've had a great season, but my girls wanted it more than anything, and it shows.”

SUMMARY:

at Chinook Field, Scappoose

La Salle 0 1 – 1

Scappoose 2 1 – 3

First half – 1, Scappoose, Davidson, 1st minute. 2, Scappoose, N. Muth, 29 minute.

Second half – 3, Davidson (Jones), 68th minute. 1, La Salle, Courtney Craine (penalty kick), 69th minute.