Gladstone girls win title showdown with top-ranked Mazama, earn their third state championship in four seasons

The Gladstone Gladiators have once again proven themselves the top Class 4A girls soccer team in the state.

The Gladiators proved that to be the case Saturday afternoon at Liberty High School, when they dropped top-ranked Mazama 1-0 in the championship final, after handling No. 2-ranked Scappoose (4-1) in the semifinals.

It’s the third state championship in the past four seasons for the Gladiators, who also won state championships in 2009 and last fall.

“This means a lot,” said Gladstone senior co-captain Amber Jensen. “Especially doing it with my graduating class. We wanted to go out with a bang, and we played our hearts out tonight. That was a full 80 minutes of soccer. We left it all on the field.”

“[If someone had told me my freshman year that we’d win three state titles], I’d have thought they were out of their minds,” said senior co-captain Madi Cronin.

Asked why the Gladiators have been so successful throughout her high school career, Cronin said, “We just have this chemistry. I can’t even put it in words. But every year we graduate some key players and people write us off. The girls coming back know they have big shoes to fill, and they step up to the challenge, and do it. It’s amazing!”

Cronin continued, “I feel so honored and so privileged to play with these girls. To win the state title my senior year and do it with my friends who I’ve grown up with and played with all my life, it’s the best thing anyone could ask for.”

“Mazama was the best team we’ve played this year,” said Gladiator senior co-captain Taylor Plunkett. “They’re just like us, a mirror-image. They were fast, they switched field and counterattacked. It was like we were playing ourselves.”

Plunkett earned heroine honors in the state final, putting the game’s lone goal in the net on a free kick taken from 40 yards out in the 39th minute. The shot slipped off the outreached hands of a leaping goalkeeper and slipped just inside the upper-left corner of the net.

“I was thinking, just shoot high and go for the corner,” Plunkett said. “I wasn’t expecting to score a goal, but I went for it and it went in.”

The Gladiators had the best of the play, especially in the second half, when Gladstone sophomore goalkeeper Molly Webster rarely touched the ball.

But Mazama senior keeper Kaylee Grigsby kept her team in the game, repelling a number of dangerous assaults by Jensen and her teammates.

The Gladiators out-shot the Vikings 10-2, with six shots on-frame. Jensen shot five times, with three shots on-frame. Webster had to make just one save.

Gladstone coached Steve Thomas heaped praise on his team: “Two years ago these girls lost their whole defense [to graduation]. And this year we lost our whole midfield — four starters, all in the midfield. We revamped and moved kids around, and they did it again. I’m just really proud of these girls.”

Thomas had special words for Jensen, who this year brought her career scoring total to 101 goals, making her one of only five girls in the history of Oregon high school soccer to have scored over 100 career goals.

“People don’t know it, but Amber played most of the season with pain,” Thomas said. “She’s been playing on a broken ankle [detached ligaments and a cracked bone] since before doubles. She’s worn an ankle brace and been taped for every practice and every game — until tonight. She said, ‘It’s my final game and I need my freedom.’ So we let her go....

“Amber is a tremendous player. She not only has great skills, but she reads the game and sees the field better than any girl I’ve coached. Amber scored 101 goals this year, and she would have scored at least a dozen more if she’d been healthy”

Gladstone had five seniors on this year’s 20-player state-playoff roster, and those seniors have made a tremendous run.

“We’ve had some great senior classes, but it’s amazing what these girls have done,”Thomas said.

The seniors never lost a game in league, going 12-0-0 in league as freshmen, 9-0-1 as sophomores, 10-0-0 as juniors, and 9-0-1 as seniors.

Their freshmen year Gladstone went 17-0-1, outscoring opponents 65-5 en route to their school’s first state title.

Their sophomore year Gladstone went 14-2-1, outscoring opponents 63-9 and dropping a 2-1 heartbreaker to Mazama in the semifinals.

Last year the team went 17-2-0, outscoring opponents 84-6 and winning their school’s second state title.

This fall they went 16-1-1, outscoring opponents 72-3 en route to a third title.

This year’s team set school records for shutouts, at 15; and for least goals allowed, at 3 — including one own-goal.

They avenged an early-season 1-0 loss to Scappoose, handling the Indians 4-1 in the semifinals. And they avenged an early-season 1-1 tie with Molalla, beating their Tri-Valley Conference rivals 2-0 the second time in league and 3-0 in the state play-off quarterfinals.

The Skyline Conference champion Mazama Vikings entered this year’s state final with a 16-0-1 record and 14 wins in a row, with 11 shutouts. They’d outscored 17 earlier opponents 85-8.

Starting for the Gladiators in this year’s final were: seniors Amber Jensen (forward), Madi Cronin (midfield), Taylor Plunkett (defense) and Victoria Finley (defense); juniors Kelsey Hathaway (forward), Kendall Schumaker (midfield) and Julia Schumaker (defense); and sophomores Molly Webster (goalie), Mikaela Simac (defense), Tianna Smith (midfield) and Riley Webster (midfield).

Also seeing action in the final were senior Grace Kersting (defense), junior Cheyenne Stubblefield (forward), sophomore Chelsea Emtrambasaquas (midfield) and freshman Allie Seymour (forward).

Rounding out Gladstone’s state-playoff roster were: sophomores Gabrielle Wachlin (goalkeeper), Nanna Sandholt (midfield), Talia Pena (defense) and Hannah Kent (midfield); and freshman Madeline Stirling (goalkeeper).

“I plan to come back and watch these girls kick butt [next year],” Plunkett said. “They have the talent. They have the skill. I have so much faith in these girls. I know they’ll come back and make a run again.”

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