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Girls soccer: Geisbers' hat-trick steals overtime victory for St. Helens

Junior Ashley Geisbers scored late in the first overtime period, helping St. Helens to a 3-2 win over Milwaukie

Time was winding down in the first overtime, the score tied a two goals apiece as the Lady Lions and Milwaukie remained locked in a draw. The visiting Mustangs (3-6-2, 0-4-1) had rallied twice after St. Helens battled for a lead, but the Lions still had one last round in the chamber.

The ball fell to the feet of junior phenom Ashley Geisbers about 30 yards from goal. A quick touch with the outside of her right boot left Geisbers with two options: feed freshman Sophia Etep up the middle, or jump on the space given her by the Milwaukie defense and look to be a hero.

Geisbers chose the latter, cut past her defender and fired, slotting the ball through a pair of Mustangs, past the outstretched mitts of the keeper and into the bottom right corner, completing the hat-trick and putting St. Helens on top for good.

It was the final nail, and the final answer for Geisbers, who had seen her previous two goals smothered by a quick response by Milwaukie.

Midway through the second half, Genesis Hanson played wide to Estep along the right sideline, followed by a dashing run by Estep to force a corner in the 66th minute. Estep swung the corner into the box, opening the scoring on a free header from Geisbers with three defenders around her.

But just two minutes later, the Mustangs scored in a flash, getting a ball over the middle and sneaking a shot under St. Helens keeper Athena Duggan to level the match.

Geisbers scored her second, taking advantage of an ill-prepared Milwaukie defense when an attempted clearance popped up in the box. Standing just outside the six-yard box, Geisbers waited for the ball to bounce, settled and turned to tuck the ball just inside the frame.

Just 30 seconds later, Milwaukie snuck in another one. This time, a long ball from outside the box took a bounce as Duggan lept forward to snag the cross, but fell to an onrushing Mustang to pull the visitors back into a tie in the 75th minute.

Still, the Lions never hung their heads or folded, as they might have done in previous seasons. Head coach Simon Date said the thrilling victory served as proof that the mindset of the junior-heavy side hasn't just begun to shift, it's in full force.

“The thing with this team again, is that we are fighting our own perception of where we should be. We are the St. Helens lady lion soccer program. We are supposed to lose games historically,” Date said. “That perception is changing but it still registers in the psyche that when we have a lead it is due to blind luck and we must go immediately to panic stations to preserve it.”

Now, instead of leading by luck and chance, Date said, the girls are beginning to understand that they've worked hard to get on top — and they're beginning to act like it. Even after giving up the second score, there was still a chance for St. Helens to win it, and the regulation whistle set Geisbers up to play the heroine, as she has multiple times throughout her career.

More importantly, Geisbers' hat-trick locked the Lions into a three-way tie in the league standings, and with three teams they have struggled against in recent memory: Wilsonville and Liberty. The top-two seeds from the NW Oregon Conference — likely Putnam (7-2-2, 5-0 NWOC) and Hillsboro (9-0-1, 4-0 NWOC) — will automatically get in to the OSAA playoffs. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth seeds will compete in the play-in round, the furthest St. Helens has ever gotten in program history.

“The playing around is where we went down the last time we were in postseason,” Date said. “We never made it past that. That means, at least on paper, we have to raise the standards of the program. Quality programs are built on the concept all repeating what you did last year, or getting more kids into the program, more bigger crowds. Those things will come, but it will come by winning state championships and making it regularly into the post season.”

The program history in mind, the years of difficult, losing seasons and the imbalance of resources, player pool and facilities makes it an uphill battle for the Lions, who have routinely struggled against the high-profile teams in the league. That said, Date isn't about to concede an inch, calling St. Helens “minnows” in a big pond, but without the option of playing like it.

The third and fourth seeds will host in the play-in round, which is the most likely of the scenarios St. Helens can shoot for. The Lions still have yet to face Hillsboro and Putnam, both of whom are undefeated in league, as well as Wilsonville.

The only game St. Helens will be favored in the rest of the way is the season finale at home against Sandy, which could decide whether St. Helens sees the play-in round or is sent packing.

In the rest of the matches the Lions will be 'dogs, and if you talk to Date, they certainly like those chances.

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