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Girls soccer: St. Helens slips into play-in round

St. Helens came from two goals down to tie Sandy in the regular season finale, sending the Lions to a play-in match with Bend


Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - St. Helens junior striker Ashley Geisbers is tripped up inside the penalty area by a pair of Sandy defenders midway through the first half. Geisbers put away the resulting free kick to draw the Lions level at 2-2.The Lady Lions knew one thing was set in stone when entering their final match of the regular season: win or draw, and they'd extend their run to the play-in round with a trip to Bend.

And by the skin of their teeth, St. Helens will get the chance to prove themselves in the postseason after battling back for a thrilling overtime draw with Sandy.

But just 12 minutes into St. Helens' tilt with the Pioneers on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, things were looking far more grim than head coach Simon Date had expected.

In the fifth minute, sophomore forward Autumn Carey tapped the ball into the back of the Lion net. Seven minutes later, freshman defender Tana Eri headed in a second goal to give the visiting Pioneers a 2-0 lead in the 12th minute of play.

St. Helens was stunned. Sandy, while not a pushover in the NW Oregon Conference, wasn't exactly an offensive juggernaut. They'd scored more than two goals just once coming in, and yet had a stranglehold on the Lions' postseason without hardly breaking a sweat.

The next handful of minutes would decide, potentially, the fate of the 2014 campaign. Normally fast-paced and technically sound, St. Helens couldn't complete a pass in the midfield and struggled to clear the ball from their own defensive third.

Then came the crimson-haired answer for the Lions.

With a hand in nearly every St. Helens goal this season, whether by her own boot or with an assist, opponents have learned to look out for junior Ashley Geisbers. The thing is, it doesn't seem to matter.

In the 20th minute, Geisbers crossed over her defender and scored from 15 yards out, jogging silently back to midfield and plotting her next move. Eight minutes later, Geisbers got in between a pair of Sandy defenders, who squeezed together and ended up throwing Geisbers to the ground inside the penalty area. The resulting free kick was converted for Geisbers' brace in the 28th minute, pulling St. Helens even with Sandy at the break.

Both sides played scoreless for much of the second half, with Lion keeper Athena Duggan snapping up everything that came her way. With just under nine minutes to play, Sandy fought forward and took a shot on goal. Duggan dove to parry the shot away, but the ball fell to the feet of Sandy freshman midfielder Sophie Burton for an easy go-ahead goal in the 72nd minute.

With time running short and emotions running high, St. Helens had no other place to turn but their running red-headed offensive cornerstone. Not two minutes after conceding, Geisbers ran onto a ball just inside the 18 yard box, took a touch with the outside of her right foot and fired across the goal and into the back of the net.

This time, the audience got a reaction. Geisbers let out a yelp and ran to midfield to celebrate the game-tying strike with just over five minutes left in regulation. Two ten-minute overtimes still couldn't separate the sides, sending the match to a draw.

St. Helens will travel to the high desert on Friday for a match with the No. 2 Bend Lava Bears at 2 p.m. Check for results online at www.spotlightnews.net.

Update: The NW Oregon Conference tiebreaker is not, as was previously thought, the overall record. By virtue of the Lions' win over Parkrose on Sept. 30, St. Helens gets the nod into the play-in round.

SUMMARY

Grace Baptist Church, Warren

St. Helens 3, Sandy 3

SAND 2 1 0-0 — 3

STHE 2 1 0-0 — 3

Goals:

SAND — Autumn Carey 5'

SAND — Tana Eri 12'

STHE — Ashley Geisbers 20', 28'

SAND — Sophie Burton 72'

STHE — A. Geisbers 74'

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