After 24 years as Camas High’s head soccer coach, Roland Minder had hoped to retire from the game he loves with another state championship trophy.
Minder’s team of Papermakers came so close to achieving that dream — and, according to their coach, had “over-achieved” all season — but the girls fell 2-1 to Skyline High at the Nov. 17 championship match at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, Washington.
The Camas girls huddled at midfield after the loss, with tears flowing, to listen to their coach’s wisdom one final time.
“The hurt will go away,” Minder told the Camas players. “In 20 years, what you will remember is all the fun you had together and the successes you’ve achieved.”
Epic comeback in semi-finals
Just getting to the title game was a thing to behold. In the semi-final game held Nov. 16, the Papermakers made a late game comeback to beat the Central Valley Bears, from Spokane, 2-1. The Bears were up 1-0 with three minutes to go in the game, when an epic Camas offensive explosion ignited. Papermaker Callie Rheaume managed to sneak a shot by the Bears’ goalkeeper to tie the game, 1-1.
Then, in the final minute, the Papermakers all-time scoring leader, senior Maddie Kemp swept past through three defenders and crushed a shot straight into the net to win the game seconds before the clock ran out, sending her team to the championship game.
“It was just crazy,” Camas senior Jazzy Paulson said. “We were all just shocked when Maddie did that for us.”
A defensive battle for the state title
Less than 24 hours later, after arguably the most dramatic comeback in Camas High soccer history, the Papermakers squared off with Skyline a team Camas had knocked out of the state playoffs the past three seasons.
The Camas defense played tough throughout the first half and the Papermakers scored first in the 37th minute, when Paulson hit pay dirt after a fast break that started with a great pass from Camas senior Callie Rheaume.
That lead did not last long. One minute later, Skyline scored on a corner kick to tie the game 1-1. Skyline scored again in the 57th minute and took the lead, 2-1.
The Papermakers had several chances to score in the closing minutes as the team desperately searched for the same magic that propelled them to victory the prior evening.
When the horn sounded, the girls’ goal of sending their coach into retirement with another state championship fell short.
It was a painful loss for the close-knit group, especially for the team’s eight seniors — many of whom played roles in the team’s four consecutive trips to the state semi-finals.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted to end the season, but we went further than we thought we were going to, so I guess it’s bittersweet because now that we are here, we all know we could have easily won,” Rheaume said.
Kemp, who will play for Gonzaga University in Spokane next year, was deeply disappointed after the championship loss.
“It was a battle. We got the first goal, but they came right back on us,” Kemp said. “We didn’t do a very good job of connecting our passes tonight. I feel like we defeated ourselves. Obviously, we are disappointed and I feel like we disappointed Minder, so it’s very hard.”
The girls’ coach said he was far from disappointed — in fact, he said, he couldn’t be more proud of his team and the thrilling run they’ve had this season.
“You know soccer is one of the cruelest sports, a sport that’s not totally fair because the better team doesn’t always win,” Minder said. “You see, last night fate was with us, but tonight it wasn’t. There is no other explanation.”
After the championship loss to Skyline, Minder, who delivered Camas five state championships and countless accolades throughout his years coaching the boys and girls soccer teams, told the girls just how proud he was to have shared the journey with them.
“We’re a family now. No matter where you go, no matter what you do in life, you’ll always be a part of that,” Minder said.