HEARTBREAKER FOR LA GRANDE GIRLS
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
PLEASANT HILL The La Grande-Pleasant Hill girls' 3A quarterfinal soccer match came down to a split second.
The La Grande girls lost their playoff match 1-0 in heartbreaking fashion after a controversial call took away a Tigers' goal in the final two minutes.
Ironically, the call was made in favor of La Grande, but because of unfortunate timing, it ended up devastating the Tigers instead.
The Tigers and Billies were two evenly matched teams that had battled toe-to-toe for 78 minutes, with Pleasant Hill hanging on by its fingernails to a one-goal lead.
La Grande was making a late rush at the goal when there was a collision just outside of the goal area between a Tigers' player and a Billies' defender.
In the midst of the collision, the ball was directed toward a wide-open Amber Rasmussen.
The referee ruled it was a foul on Pleasant Hill and blew his whistle right as Rasmussen began her windup for a shot. She booted a beautiful 30-yard shot over the goalie's head for an apparent goal, but she clearly kicked the ball an instant after the whistle blew. The goal was disallowed.
La Grande got a free kick after the foul call and Alexis Baum's shot got past a picket line of Billies' defenders but went just wide of the post. The final whistle blew less than two minutes later.
La Grande coach Alex Steenstra said it appeared to him to be a quick whistle. He said the refs all game had been waiting to see if a player had gained an advantage before blowing the whistle for obstruction. In this case, he argued that La Grande maintained control of the ball all along and Pleasant Hill never gained an advantage.
"The ball was still in our possession. Our girls deserved better," Steenstra said.
"I do think we were the better team, but there are things in soccer you can't control," he said. "The girls should have no regrets. I'm proud of them."
Pleasant Hill was the more aggressive team early, coming at La Grande's net in waves. The Billies pressured the Tigers with several corner kicks and crosses in front of the goal in the first 10 minutes of the match, then finally scored as Takahla Circle headed a crossing pass into the net.
"The first 10 or 15 minutes, they were dominating," said Steenstra. "Then we started picking it up and later on we were the dominant team."
Midway through the first half, Rasmussen had a solid left-footed shot from the left wing that beat the Billies' goalie, but it went just wide of the far post.
Moments later, Rasmussen and Baum combined on a spectacular play. Rasmussen made a perfect cross and Baum headed it toward the corner of the net. But, Billies' goalkeep Alyssa Price made a diving stop to snag the beautiful shot.
Still in the first half, Pleasant Hill briefly put on the pressure and had a wide open shot at an open goal mouth, but the Billies' shot actually hit one of their own players and stayed out.
In the second half, La Grande had another close chance as a Tigers' shot bounced off Price tantalizingly in front of a streaking Baum.
Price managed to grab the loose ball just before Baum could reach it, though.
La Grande, winners of the Division 7 League, ended the season with a 13-2 record.