Columbia River girls soccer makes another run to the final four

Defending 2A state champions have a new team but the same winning ways en route to the semifinals

Last year was their year.

Last year, they won the Class 2A state championship.

Last year, there were six seniors on the squad.

And now, this year is looking a lot like last year.

Columbia River goalkeeper Liz Canton looks up after she saved a penalty kick Saturday in the Class 2A state quarterfinals. Her save put the Chieftains into position to win, to return to the state’s final four. Photo by Dawn Anthony
Columbia River goalkeeper Liz Canton looks up after she saved a penalty kick Saturday in the Class 2A state quarterfinals. Her save put the Chieftains into position to win, to return to the state’s final four. Photo by Dawn Anthony

The Columbia River High School girls soccer team is back in the Class 2A state final four.

“We surprised a lot of people to be back here, but we earned it,” goalkeeper Liz Canton said. “We earned the right to be back here. It’s amazing.”


2017 state high school girls soccer championship

Columbia River is not the only local defending state champion in girls soccer to be playing this week. The Camas Papermakers, the Class 4A champions in 2016, also qualified for their final four.

Camas will take on Issaquah at 8 p.m. Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup in one 4A semifinal. Kennedy Catholic and Central Valley make up the other two final four squads. The championship match is set for 4 p.m. Saturday. The third-place match will be played at noon Saturday.

The Chieftains will travel north of Seattle to Shoreline for their final four. Columbia River faces White River at 8 p.m. Friday in its semifinal. Liberty and West Valley (Yakima) are the other two semifinalists. The championship match is set for 4 p.m. Saturday. The third-place match is noon Saturday.

Cost is $10, $8 and $8 for adults, senior citizens, and students or $18, $14, and $14 for two-day passes. Cash only.


Teammate Katie Lee explained that every team, every year, has its ceiling.

“Last year, our ceiling was winning a state championship,” Lee said. “This season, we don’t know us yet. It’s about playing as hard as you can to reach your ceiling.”

Columbia River survived a thrilling quarterfinal matchup last week to advance to the state semifinals. The Chieftains will take on undefeated White River at 8 p.m. Friday at Shoreline Stadium.

“It was going to be a different team dynamic. We knew that going into the season,” Lee said, noting the graduation of those six seniors, three who went on to play in college.

The Chieftains tried different formations. Plus, they still had a lot of key players back who had major roles last season.

Still, Hockinson was a team many looked at as the top in the 2A GSHL. The Hawks then beat Columbia River in their first matchup of the season.

“We knew we could play better,” Canton said. “The next time around, we did.”

In fact, Columbia River did not lose another league match, claiming the title. The Chieftains then doubled up by winning the district title, including another victory over Hockinson.

Canton described Hockinson as a “great” team, which meant beating the Hawks two out of three times this season gave the Chieftains even more confidence.

Columbia River has a 16-match unbeaten streak. In five postseason matches, the Chieftains have given up one goal.

They have not necessarily been a juggernaut on offense, but the Chieftains are getting the job done.

“We don’t have anyone who is ‘our goal scorer.’ We all work together as a team,” Canton said. “If you work together … it helps you connect more passes and create good plays.”

This past weekend, though, the ball just was not finding the net.

“Our goalie saved some shots. Their goalie saved some shots,” Lee said, referring to the quarterfinal match against Bellingham.

“It was crazy, the intensity of that whole game,” Lee added. “It was possibly our last game ever.”

After regulation, after overtime, still no score, and it came down to penalty kicks.

Canton made the play of the afternoon.

Columbia River forward Sophia Skimas controls a ball against Bellingham in Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup. She would later net a goal in penalty kicks, helping the defending state champions return to the final four. Photo by Dawn Anthony
Columbia River forward Sophia Skimas controls a ball against Bellingham in Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup. She would later net a goal in penalty kicks, helping the defending state champions return to the final four. Photo by Dawn Anthony

“It’s hard to describe penalty kicks,” the keeper said. “You can be good but you really have to go with your gut. You have to go 100 percent. You can’t second-guess yourself. I knew I was going to dive left. I knew before she kicked the ball. You don’t try to react to the direction of the ball. By then, it’s too late.”

Her gut was right. Her talent was true. Save made.

“I heard the cheers from the team, the bench, from the crowd,” Canton said.

For the most part, a keeper just needs to save one to get her team in position to win. Canton had accomplished her mission.

Bellingham would make four of its five penalty kicks, with River getting the final shot in the fifth round. Lee stepped up to the ball after Sophia Skimas, Sarah Givvines, Yaneisy Rodriguez, and Sydney Flores-Tucker each made their shots.

Columbia River’s Yaneisy Rodriguez (8) was instrumental on defense, helping to hold Bellingham scoreless. Rodriguez also made her penalty kick. Photo by Dawn Anthony
Columbia River’s Yaneisy Rodriguez (8) was instrumental on defense, helping to hold Bellingham scoreless. Rodriguez also made her penalty kick. Photo by Dawn Anthony
Katie Lee made her shot, in the fifth round of penalty kicks, to clinch the victory over Bellingham in the quarterfinals.
Katie Lee made her shot, in the fifth round of penalty kicks, to clinch the victory over Bellingham in the quarterfinals.

Lee’s shot was for the win. A miss would send the penalty kicks into an extra round.

“I was really nervous. I’m telling myself ‘I’m not nervous’ even though I was,” Lee said.

She knew her spot. It’s her perfect place, the one she practices the most.

“If I place it in the same exact spot, and kick it hard enough …” Lee said.

Lee did exactly that. The Bellingham keeper even guessed correctly, but a perfectly placed ball cannot be defended.

“It’s really hard to be a goalkeeper in that type of situation,” Lee said.

Then it was just bedlam.

Columbia River defender Reggie Griffith soars high to knock a ball away from a Bellingham player during Saturday’s quarterfinal win. The River defense has not allowed a goal in five postseason matches. Photo by Dawn Anthony
Columbia River defender Reggie Griffith soars high to knock a ball away from a Bellingham player during Saturday’s quarterfinal win. The River defense has not allowed a goal in five postseason matches. Photo by Dawn Anthony

“I ran back. We could hear everyone cheering. I hugged Sarah. I think I hugged Sarah so hard I hit her in the face,” Lee said. “Then everyone tackled us. It was crazy.”

The Columbia River Chieftains would love two more crazy finishes, two more victories to repeat as state champions.

They also know, though, that this season already has been special. Surprising even, for some.

The Chieftains said all they wanted to do was just get better as the season progressed. They certainly have done that, all the way to the final four, earning every victory along the way.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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