The members of the Washougal High School girls soccer team couldn’t have imagined a better start to the season.
After convincing victories against La Center and Fort Vancouver in the first week, the Panthers rallied to defeat R.A. Long 3-1 and outlasted Woodland 6-5 in a shootout. They capped off another successful week by shutting out W.F. West 2-0 Saturday, in Chehalis.
“A lot of credit goes to the girls for finding ways to score goals and fight back from adversity,” said head coach Harrison Martin. “They don’t give up. They believe in what they are doing out there.”
R.A. Long jumped on the board with a goal in the first six minutes Sept. 16, at Fishback Stadium. After halftime, Washougal came back out on the field looking like a different team. Heather Deulen delivered the tying and go-ahead goals, about four minutes apart, on assists by Isabelle Sampson and Katie Desimone.
“Did that just happen? Back-to-back … I couldn’t believe it,” Deulen said. “We were just unified. You could tell it was happening.”
Haley Briggs provided some reassurance for the Panthers in the final six minutes. The senior defender headed in a corner kick by Desimone to increase the lead.
“Even though we were up 2-1, it was still a fight. We needed one more,” Briggs said. “It felt so great to get that goal and seal the deal.”
Washougal was tested several times at Woodland Thursday. Sierra Coloma scored the first goal for the Panthers on a pass from Deulen. Coloma returned the favor to Deulen, but Washougal trailed 3-2 at halftime.
“When it’s close like that, it takes a lot of heart and determination to keep scoring,” Desimone said. “No matter what has happened to us in the last few years, we are going to keep fighting.”
Briggs, Desimone and Deulen netted goals for the Panthers in the second half, but the Beavers were able to tie the score and force overtime. Washougal keeper Katzxia Moua saved the day in the shootout. Once Briggs and Coloma put the Panthers up 2-1, Moua dove across the box and swatted Woodland’s final attempt away from the net.
“After not being able to play for year [because of a torn ACL], it feels good to come back stronger than ever,” Moua said. “A part of me thought maybe I’m not as good as I was before, but after these last few games, I realize I don’t have to worry. It feels fantastic being back in the box doing my thing.”
Moua snagged eight saves to help Washougal blank W.F. West. Elizabeth Gregory and Deulen knocked assists by Ellie Schmid and Coloma into the net.
Deulen is making up for lost time after not playing for the Panthers during her junior year. She scored five goals last week.
“It’s my senior year. I got to be with my friends doing what I love,” Deulen said. “And that’s on this field, under the stadium lights, listing to the crowd cheering us on. I really missed that.”
Washougal (5-0) goes to Ridgefield tonight and hosts Hockinson Thursday. Both games begin at 7 p.m.