Camas girls soccer team heads to 4A semifinals

Papermakers, the 2020 4A Greater St. Helens League champions, will play Skyline Spartans on Friday, Nov. 18

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Camas soccer player Lily Loughney (left) jumps on the back of Emerson Grafton (18) after Grafton scored a goal during the Papermakers' first-round 4A state tournament game against Kennedy Catholic at Doc Harris Stadium on Nov. 10, 2021. (Contributed photo courtesy of Kris Cavin)

The Camas girls soccer team felt as though it could’ve contended for a state championship in 2020, but had to settle for a league title after the 4A state tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore the Papermakers entered their 2021 campaign with a surplus of motivation, a mindset stemming from a collective desire to make up for lost time. The lost opportunity of the previous season gave the players “extra fire and grit to fight,” in the words of their head coach, to win a state championship this fall.

“(Contending for a state title was in their minds) from the start,” Camas coach Keri Tomasetti said. “We went undefeated in the spring, and we knew we had a strong team (coming back), even with some holes to be filled. Then as we played games, that gave us a better feel, because every year is relative to what everybody else has, so as we played more and more games it became even more of a goal that was definitely achievable for us.”

They’re just two wins away from accomplishing their objective.

The Papermakers (20-0-0) will play Skyline in a 4A state tournament semifinal contest at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, Washington.

“We’re excited,” Tomasetti said. “Every team is going to be a challenge. We have some recent history with Skyline, and they’re a good side. They’re always going to be strong and be a great opponent. We expect that we’re going to have a really good match. It’s an honor for us to be able to get to this point and to be able to accomplish our ultimate goal. For us to come this far is a tremendous feat.”

If they beat the Spartans, they’ll take on Issaquah or Richland in the state title game at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18. If they lose to Skyline, they’ll match up against the loser of the other semifinal contest in a third/fourth-place game at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18.

“We’re all super excited for this upcoming weekend,” senior midfielder Maya Parman said. “We have confidence, but we don’t want to be overconfident. I think we’ll all have some nerves going up there, but we know what we can do, and I think as long as we play together, (we’ll do well). We all want this so bad, so I think that will help drive us more. Since the start of bi-districts, we’ve said, ‘Let’s play like this is our last game.’ In this case, we have a (second) game either way, but we have to play (against Skyline) like it’s our last game.”

Advancing to the semifinal round is “obviously a huge accomplishment” for the team, according to junior goalkeeper Keely Wieczorek.

“We were also undefeated last season, so we knew coming into this season that our main goal was to win that state championship,” Wieczorek said. “Now that we’re here, we just want to finish it. We’re confident going in. All season long we’ve had the mindset to leave every ounce of what we have on the field. That’s what we have to do this weekend — leave every single possible thing on the field so there’s no doubt that we could’ve done anything more.”

The team’s unbeaten record comes as no surprise to the coaches and players, who have succeeded thanks to “a chip on our shoulders and a (desire) to outwork everybody else,” according to Wieczorek.

“I would owe all (of our success) to our mindset,” she said. “The team chemistry this year is honestly like no other. We just love each other so much, and that shows on the field really, really well. We’re friends off the field, and that translates to chemistry on the field. We all knew what we wanted (to accomplish) from the very first day we stepped on the field for summer conditioning. That common goal brought us together. Every single day we show up to practice with that mindset, and we work as hard as we can on the field during practices and games, and that’s what’s gotten us to where we’re at.”

The Papermakers opened state tournament play with a 2-1 win over Kennedy Catholic on Nov. 10, then defeated West Valley (Yakima) 3-2 on Nov. 13 to advance to the semifinals.

“When this group of juniors and seniors were freshmen and sophomores, I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a final four team (next) year,’ which would’ve been this past spring. ‘We definitely have championship potential when you are juniors and seniors,'” Tomasetti said. “And here we are — they’re juniors and seniors and they haven’t let down. I couldn’t be prouder of the way they’ve progressed through the years and the way they’ve become a real team and family. It’s everything I could hope for them.”

Camas has been dominant on both sides of the field this fall. The Papermakers are averaging 3.5 goals per game with a balanced, dynamic attack led by junior forward/midfielder Bella Burns, senior forward Emerson Grafton, senior midfielder Lily Loughney and junior forward Anna Mooney.

“The amount of goal scorers that we have (sets us apart),” Parman said. “If you look at the stats, it’s not just one person scoring the goals. Everyone has opportunities, and a lot of people have scored goals. I think that makes us even more dangerous because you don’t know where that goal is going to come from or where that shot is going to come from. Once we do get into the attacking third, we want that goal so bad. We attack with speed and explosiveness and are able to connect (with our passes), which I think is super important.”

But their defensive numbers might be even more impressive — they’ve allowed just nine goals and recorded 13 shutouts. Camas hadn’t given up more than one goal in a match until their most recent contest against West Valley.

“Our chemistry on the back line has been great, and our communication has been so, so important,” Wieczorek said. “Defense is a thankless position, for sure, but I’m so grateful for my back line (teammates) every single day because we owe a lot of those shutouts to them. We’re super proud of what we’ve done as a defense. Before games we write down our goals, and every single game, my goal is to get that shutout, and I know that’s how it is for a lot of the defenders as well. Going in with that mindset of, ‘We’re going to get this shutout and we’re going to (play hard) until the very last minute’ has been great for us.”

Injuries to several players, including sophomore defender Parker Mairs, have forced Tomasetti to adjust her lineup and move players into different positions. But they’ve endured thanks to their unselfishness and versatility.

“We’ve had to, as any team does from the beginning of the season to the end, ask multiple players to move around, and every time they’ve stepped up to that,” Tomasetti said. “I’m just really proud of them for the way they deal with adversity and fight for each other. Even if I ask them to play out of position, they’re gung-ho and ready. They’re like, ‘OK, whatever I can do for the team, (I’ll do),’ and that type of attitude is what gets you there. They don’t put their head down and go, ‘OK, fine.’ They step up and say, ‘What’s best for the team, I will do. Tell me what to do.'”

They’ve also responded well to their rare miscues.

“I think the biggest thing is the fact that when they have been scored on, they pick it right back up,” Tomasetti said. “There are no heads hung. They are right back in it. It does not put them down. If anything, they get better. There are a lot of teams out there that the minute they get scored on, they’re down and out, and our team has not shown that one time. (I’ll remember) this group of girls’ integrity and grit and ability to overcome any adversity and (the way they) consider themselves a family. They’re very much one unit, and that’s not something you always get from a team. That’s what this team has given us.”

“This team is definitely special, and different from past teams,” Wieczorek added. “It still has that similar Camas mindset — you’re coming in wanting to win everything you possibly can. But this team really has the talent and the chemistry. Almost all of our seniors are committed (to college programs), and the juniors are looking to commit. Obviously we have a lot of talent, but not only do we have the talent, but we have the mindset and the physicality. Adding that all up, if everything falls into place like we want it to, we should come home with that state title.”