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RISING ABOVE: La Grande's Mikell Woodfield outleaps Jody Symonds of Seaside for a header during Tuesday's state soccer match. The Seagulls won 3-2 in overtime. (The Observer/JOE SOVA).
RISING ABOVE: La Grande's Mikell Woodfield outleaps Jody Symonds of Seaside for a header during Tuesday's state soccer match. The Seagulls won 3-2 in overtime. (The Observer/JOE SOVA).

By Joe Sova

Sports Editor

An excellent La Grande High School girls soccer season came to a premature end Tuesday as the Tigers were eliminated by a strong Seaside squad 3-2 in overtime at the LMS field.

The second-round loss leaves the Tigers with a 10-4 overall record. They were co-champions of Special District 7 in the Greater Oregon League.

Seaside, the No. 3 seed from the tough Cowapa League, advances to host Sherwood Saturday. The Seagulls take a six-game winning streak in the quarterfinals.

"They were aware of the competition from the other side of the mountain," La Grande first-year head coach Nichole Alvarado said. "I think they were mentally prepared and knew what to expect, and what was expected of them."

La Grande battled from behind twice its first state tourney match of the season, but Seaside scored with just over two minutes left in the second overtime period on a goal by Abby Frank.

Taking a lead pass, Frank went one-on-one with La Grande junior goalkeeper Mandy Hillecke, who came out to challenge her. Hillecke appeared to get a hand on Frank's hard shot, but the ball rolled toward the goal – as if in slow motion – caromed off the left post and into the net.

Just 4:10 into the match, Seaside – using its quickness and passing ability to its advantage – took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Laura Romine from just 12 yards out. Hillecke had no chance to save the shot into the right corner of the net.

In the 25th minute, sophomore midfielder Mikell Woodfield tied the game for La Grande – collecting a loose ball and blasting a shot past Seagulls keeper Julie Nelson.

With about eight minutes left in the first half, Seaside reclaimed the lead when junior Micah Cerelli – the Cowapa League's MVP – took a crossing pass from Romine and rifled a shot over lunging Hillecke. A potential close-range shot by Seaside was prevented by Hillecke with a minute left before halftime.

There was discussion at halftime on the improvements needed by the Tigers.

"The big thing was communication," Alvarado said. "We were forcing our passes. We were trying to pass through someone. And just getting back on defense."

Following a foul on Seaside, Kelsey Woodfield took a direct kick 15 minutes into the second half. Nelson prevented a point-blank shot by Mikell Woodfield, but the Seagulls keeper went down – out of position. Sophomore forward Jessi McCall was on the spot, booting the ball into the unprotected net from five yards out to tie the match at 2-2.

La Grande had a chance to take the lead, but Nelson scooped up a loose ball at the mouth of the goal with 10 minutes to go in regulation.

After Jenn Hubbard blocked a Seaside clearing kick, Mikel Woodfield had a shot, but the try with four minutes remaining was just wide.

In the final minute, Nelson made a great save on a bouncing shot.

La Grande clearly outplayed the Sea-gulls in the second half, but could not take the lead.

"We were controlling the ball, moving it well," Alvarado said. "We weren't forcing it. We were crossing it and making things happen. They (the Tigers) did control the tempo."

There was no scoring in the first 10-minute overtime period. It appeared Seaside had taken a 3-2 lead just over a minute into the second OT on a converted corner kick. But it was ruled by the linesman that the trajectory of the ball took it out of bounds in the air, and the goal was disallowed.

After a La Grande shot was wide, Frank scored what proved to be the game-winner.

Alvarado said Kelsey Woodfield and Crystal Kevan were "flawless in the corners." Jesse (Watson) introduced a few set plays and the girls executed them perfectly, Alvarado said, which keyed the Tiger attack. Alvarado added that Ellen Barlow, Kyann McAllister and Mikell Woodfield all played exceptionally well.

Secret about Seaside out

The win was the first for Seaside in six state tournament games, according to head coach Dave Rouse, whose team blanked Brookings-Harbor in a first-round match Saturday.

"We worked our way into a team over the season," Rouse said. "We changed our system part way through ... We won't catch anyone by surprise after today. It's a better team than anyone realized we were.

"I think we're a very good team, but I don't know if we're good enough to beat Sherwood," Rouse added. "Right now we've gone farther than anyone would have dreamed we would have gone. The girls have worked so hard. It's a fabulous group. I think we had as much skill as La Grande had."

Seaside lost to Sherwood in the first round last year, and will have a chance for revenge Saturday in the quarterfinals.

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