The La Grande Tigers girls soccer team is once again Greater Oregon League champions.
“It’s a great feeling because we did it yet again,” La Grande senior Kara Gooderham said of the league title. “We all work together as a team, (and) it showed.”
Behind a first-half goal from Audrey Garlitz and a second-half goal from Gooderham, the Tigers recorded a 2-0 win over the Baker Bulldogs in GOL action at Community Stadium. The win, coupled with a tie between McLoughlin and Ontario Saturday, locks up the top spot in the league for La Grande for the eighth straight season.
“The girls have worked hard for it and have earned it,” Head Coach Kristen Rice said of locking up league again.
Gooderham said, though, that the team has higher aspirations.
“Winning league is a goal, but we have big goals to go further,” she said.
The Tigers were in control of Saturday’s contest — their first on the new Community Stadium turf and just second at home this season — from start to finishing, keeping constant pressure on Baker’s defense while building what ended up being an 18-6 shot advantage.
“They had a great game,” Rice said of her team. “They were ready for it. I was impressed with how we came out attacking.”
Several shots came close, but La Grande finally broke through in the 31st minute on a 25-yard strike from Garlitz that found the top-left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead, which the Tigers took into the break.
“That was a beautiful shot. It was nice to get a goal from that far out and finish it,” Rice said. “That got us going.”
La Grande added to the pressure in the second half, and pushed the lead to 2-0 seven minutes in on Gooderham’s goal from about 15 yards out.
“I think we definitely played better than the first time we played them,” Gooderham said, referring to La Grande’s 2-1 win at Baker in September. “We learned what their tactics were and we changed our tactics. We possessed very well and we executed very well.”
The defense was also crucial. While La Grande did dominate possession, Baker did manage to put a couple threats together in the second half. But the Tigers put an end to those opportunities to record their seventh shutout in nine contests, and goalkeeper Faith Akers tallied five saves.
La Grande, in fact, has only been scored on twice this season, once at Baker and once at Pendleton. The two goals allowed is the second fewest in the state, regardless of classification.
“They’re doing great, they just have to keep going,” Rice said in evaluating where the team is at with three games to play.
The Tigers (9-0 overall, 4-0 GOL) travel to McLoughlin Saturday.