Sixty minutes of soccer settled nothing between Camas and Auburn Mountainview, but then the Papermakers kicked it up a notch.
Janae Benson finished off a corner kick from Adrienne Engel and filtered through Annike Sumpter, Sara Slayton and Kailee Esser to catapult Camas back into the state tournament, with a 1-0 victory in the bi-district championship game Saturday at Doc Harris Stadium.
Esser and Sumpter became a two-headed machine on defense, equipped with the feet of Emily Ainsworth and Maiah Sharma, and the cat-like instincts of goalkeeper Andrea Soderberg. Benson and Ciara Klein battered Auburn in front of the goal. Slayton fed them crosses and Engel fired some corners. Aggressiveness for a goal finally paid off for the Papermakers in the 63rd minute.
After Auburn deflected a corner kick out of bounds from the left side, Camas got another shot from the right. Ainsworth delivered a nice ball across the goal mouth, but nobody could get to it before it started bouncing. Sumpter kept the ball alive, and found Slayton open on the left wing.
“Every corner before that had deflected off their heads and gone out,” Sumpter said. “When I saw that ball, I told myself ‘I got to save this.'”
Slayton said her first instinct was to shoot, but she also heard Sumpter shouting “cross” and Esser yelling “drop.”
“I remember Kaliee was just screaming at me to drop the ball back to her. I knew she would be mad if I didn’t,” Slayton said. “I only had a split-second to think. I was so close to just shooting it, but then I thought ‘who has the better angle?’ Kaliee had it.”
The ball seemed to be in slow motion, as Esser tried to beat a couple of defenders to it. She said she could not see the goal, but she had no time other than to shoot it and hope for the best.
“It was just a blind, left-footed shot,” Esser said. “Thank goodness we had each other. We couldn’t have done that without the team.”
The ball gravitated toward the goal, before bouncing off the far post back into play. It could have just been another missed opportunity for Camas, but Benson saved the day.
“All week, coach Minder pushed us in practice to finish off goals,” she said. “I saw the ball, and I was just at the right place at the right time.”
Benson rushed into the fray, and pocketed the ball in the left corner of the net. Like most of the people watching this one play unfold from one Papermaker to the other, head coach Roland Minder became a spectator on the edge of his seat.
“When you have a player running toward the ball in front of a wide open goal, you get a little excited,” he said. “I’m not just proud of Janae, I’m proud of every single one of them. Every player showed heart.”
Camas completed the first goal in the playoffs together. Minder appreciated the challenge. After the game, his words of inspiration brought smiles to the girl’s faces.
“It was a nail biter, but these are the games that are more satisfying to win,” Minder said. “They gave us a real good game. It was one of the most aggressive teams we’ve played this year.”
It should only make the Papermakers stronger for state. Camas hosts Juanita of Kirkland Wednesday in the first round. Kickoff is at 6 p.m., at Doc Harris Stadium.
“We beat a really good team, but I think this is just a taste of how the rest of the state is going to be like,” Sumpter said.
After finishing third in the state last fall, Ainsworth, Mary Connell, Esser, Ciara and Raya Klein, Slayton and Sumpter do not want their senior year to end until the championship game this time around. Minder hopes the seniors get to play four games in the next two weeks. One hundred and sixty minutes is not enough.
“This is four years of hard work,” Minder said. “Hard work that you only understand when you’re a part of it.”