By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– It’s new territory for the Stayton Girls Soccer team this late into the season.
The school, known for their dominate Boys Soccer team, currently has some competition this season as the Lady Eagles kicked off the second-half of the Oregon West Conference season on top of the OWC-standings with a perfect 6-0 record and a full-game ahead of the squad in front of them:
What’s even more interesting about this story, Stayton were sitting fifth in the state entering the game with the Lady Warriors eighth
Both squads knew what was at stake with the standings as they are, this was not just to start the second half of league but to stay in the Title chase. The Warriors finished the bridesmaid to Cascade twice and North Marion last year since winning the title in 2014 and Stayton’s finished as high as third in that span with the nerves and pressure that of a playoff game.
“It was really intense, I was so nervous,” said Izaland Samuell as the game started.
As the game progressed, there was a sense that one goal could be the deciding factor in a 0-all ballgame with how well each team’s defense was halting the offense in front of them with physicality at the ball and pushing the other to the brink.
The back third’s made sure that they let their goalies know that they had their backs in front of them.
“We’ve been practicing the whole week for this and I think everything we practiced, we gave it all today,” said defender Ariana Aceves on the defense and the importance of the game. “It’s big, last time when we beat them…that was the first-time in nine years and this year, the tie it’s a big win for us.”
The Eagles, as the game came down to the final minutes, were looking for their sixth-straight shutout with their offense coming so close with KJ Nyquist and Samuell leading the way.\
Samuell came close with 15 minutes left in the game. Kirsten Burt and Nyquist were close too with 10 minutes left. With a girl leaning into her with 3:20 left in the game Samuell had just the goalie to beat, but couldn’t get it by as the crowd in attendance really got into the game with Philomath driving on offense.
The Warriors had a clear shot at Sylvia Gomez that sailed just right of the goal with 2:52 left in the game. Nearly two minutes later, Philomath were mere inches from getting past Gomez.
But the senior goalkeeper wasn’t going to let this game get away from her, making two crucial saves with 58 seconds remaining in the game to deny the Lady Warriors from stealing one from the Eagles.
“They always have my back, so I have to have their backs this time. But we have to get used to it. Especially with a tough team like that, you just have to do whatever you got to do,” said Gomez, who mentioned about how nervous she was before the game Thursday night.
Stayton advanced downfield to try to win it as they tried to find a open lane. No luck as the Warriors sent it down field with 10 seconds left.
Philomath couldn’t get it in on time as the game ended in a scoreless, 0-0, tie as the two squad’s high-powered offenses were stonewalled by two of the State’s best defenses.
Consider this, the Eagles three goals allowed, tied with Hidden Valley’s three goals for second-fewest behind La Grande’s two. The Lady Warriors are the sixth-best defense with eight goals allowed as Stayton goes on to Newport Tuesday and Philomath hosting Sweet Home as every game becomes that much more important to the league title.
“I think we just need to keep leveled heads and just keep playing our game,” said Samuell with five games left in the season.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald