The La Grande soccer team poses with the second place trophy at Liberty High School in Hillsboro after a 3-1 loss to Scappoose in the Class 4A championship game. (JULIE BODFISH photo)
LHS falls in Class 4A championship game to Scappoose
HILLSBORO — Early in the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires Class 4A girls soccer state championship game, it appeared the powerhouse No. 1-ranked La Grande High Lady Tigers (16-1-0)had an excellent opportunity to win the title.
Leading 1-0 in the first half against the No. 3-ranked Scappoose Indians (15-3-0) after a goal by Tiger sophomore forward Alissa Welberg, the Tigers had to feel extremely confident of course, since they were undefeated and had just a total of three goals scored against them all year.
Scappoose came back though to knot it 1-all at the break and then had a dominating second half performance to pull out a 3-1 win over La Grande Saturday at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.
Despite the loss that ruined a perfect season, the three-time Greater Oregon League champion Tigers, guided by second-year coach Sam Brown, demonstrated high class while smiling as they were well satisfied to earn a very prestigious and shiny second place trophy.
“I’m incredibly proud of the girls for putting up such a good fight despite some tough circumstances,” said Brown, referring to a Tiger injury and also having one of his players ejected from the game. “It was a difficult situation and it would’ve taken a miraculous amount of grace from God in order for us to pull out a win.”
La Grande gained the upper hand in the hard fought and rough, physical (five yellow cards)contest when Welberg gained control of a loose ball and ignited the Tigers potent offense (5.29 goals per game average). Welberg blasted a shot from 14-yards out on the right side with a ball soaring into the left corner of the net, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.
“We had a great season and playing in the championship game was the best experience I’ve ever had,” said Welberg, a GOL First Team All Star. “I love my team so much and we all worked our butts off all year to get here. I was pretty excited that I scored our goal. I think we came out a little bit on our toes in the second half though and it seemed like we just weren’t ready to go. We played our hearts out though and that’s all that really matters.”
The Cowapa League Champion Indians came back, getting a goal off of a direct free kick in the 26th minute, making it 1-1. Emily Muth of Scappoose, fired in a shot past Tiger junior goalkeeper Auslin McDaniel-Perrin (five saves) to tie it up. Jasmine Smith, the GOL’s Most Valuable Player, Erin Bodfish and Welberg each had other first half scoring opportunities with solid shots, but it remained deadlocked at the break.
“I love my teammates, because they’re just like family members to me and we had such great season, so we really can’t complain,” said Auslin McDaniel-Perrin, a GOL First Team All-Star who allowed a total of just six goals scored all season and she helped La Grande post 14 shutouts. “This was a totally different game than what we’re accustomed to, with lots of physical contact and pressure, which is something we didn’t see too often in our league. There were some calls by officials that could’ve gone differently, but that’s the way things go sometimes. They (Indians) have a great bunch of girls and they deserved to win.”
Just two minutes into the second half, La Grande had a tough setback when GOL First Team All Star defender Ally Tsiatsos suffered a right leg injury and was helped off the field, while unable to play for the remainder of the game.
The Tigers continued playing with a high intensity level though and nearly regained the advantage on solid near miss shots by senior forward Haley White in the 49th minute and junior forward Lexus Miller-Moylan in the 56th minute. The potential scores could’ve helped the Tigers regain the lead, but it remained deadlocked.
“It was so cool to be here in the state championship game for the first time in school history and I was really hoping to score,” said White. “We all worked really hard to get here and getting second place is a lot better than third or fourth. We didn’t really have any tough competition until the playoffs started. They (Indians) are definitely a great team and I’m just glad that we made it this far.”
The turning point in the game definitely came midway through the second half, as Scappoose got a go-ahead goal in the 58th minute by Kim Carpenter to take a 2-1 edge. The back-breaker came two minutes later for La Grande when Smith was ejected from the match after receiving a red card violation from the referee. La Grande now had the unenviable task of competing with just 10 players, against the Indians 11-player lineup for the final 20 minutes, which proved to be too much of an obstacle for the Tigers to overcome.
“Losing two key players really took a lot out of our team,” said Brown. “We really competed well and holding them to a tie for most of the game was good. It wasn’t what we wanted, because we were hoping to win. I don’t like to be negative, but there were some things I saw that I didn’t like. I saw some hard fouls the other way that didn’t have the same kind of outcome that we had.”
Naturally, Scappoose took advantage of the shorthanded La Grande squad and outshot the Tigers 11-2 in the second half and added another goal in the 79th minute for the final 3-1 margin. The Indians also had a 6-0 advantage in corner kicks and they had a big edge in second half time of possession as well with a majority of the final 40 minutes played in the Tigers defensive side of the field.
“The schedule was definitely a factor, because they (Scappoose) see some tremendously talented teams throughout the season,” said Brown. “We struggled to find tough competition in the GOL, but we did our best to find some strong nonleague opponents. They played highly regarded teams all year like La Salle and Gladstone. We didn’t play any tough teams until the playoffs when we faced Brookings-Harbor (ninth ranked) and North Bend (fourth ranked).”
Welberg and Lucy Davidson (two assist’s) of Scappoose were selected as the Moda Players of the Match.
The Tigers concluded an absolutely fabulous season with nine players earning GOL All-Star Awards in addition to the 16-game win streak and a third straight league title. It marked the eighth straight year the Tigers advanced to the state playoffs.
Tiger seniors who played the final game of their career included Tsiatsos, Smith, White and Coach Brown’s daughter Alora Brown.
“I feel so grateful to have the privilege to coach the seniors the last four years,” said Sam Brown. “Knowing them and watching them grow up, including my daughter, has been a cool experience. They’re just amazing young women and outstanding soccer players and it will be hard to fill their shoes. We also had a great amount of support from all our fans (over 100 in attendance) all year, but especially throughout the playoffs. The school and the entire La Grande community provided great support.”
A couple of notable items regarding the Tigers road trip to Hillsboro Friday included an overnight stay in a local hotel. On Saturday morning, the team went shopping at Toy’s R Us and then went to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. They visited with the young patients there and gave them some gifts, so it was somewhat of an early Christmas present for the children. Following the state title game, the team departed shortly afterwards and returned home following the five-hour nighttime trip early Sunday morning.
McDaniel-Perrin was also in the spotlight prior to the game. She sang an awesome rendition of the National Anthem prior to the match, which is something she’s done at every La Grande home game for the last three years.