Life changed just a bit over the weekend for the Camas Papermakers, the new Class 4A girls soccer state champions
The food is better.
The ambiance at the restaurant is better.
And, of course, the bus ride home is better
Life is better with a state championship trophy.
The Camas girls soccer team followed up their state championship victory with a championship dinner and celebratory ride home Saturday night from Puyallup.
Sunday was a rest day. A much-needed rest day.
And on Monday, it started to hit them.
Hey Papermakers, you are state champions. It. Is. Real.
“Today, when all our teachers and people were congratulating us, and our coach brought the trophy to the athletic office, it kind of clicked a little more,” said senior Lily Loughney on Monday.
Clark County Today was able to meet with most members of the team on Monday to try to get a feel for what it was like Saturday when the Papermakers completed their perfect, championship season. And then the next two days, the “what happens” after such an epic season.
Some thought it was weird that they would not have practice after school.
Some thought back to when they were freshmen, and how dreams do come true, provided they put in the work to achieve their goals.
Before dinner, before the ride home, the Papermakers had to take care of business against Issaquah at Sparks Stadium. Issaquah appeared to have more opportunities in the first half. Camas had most of the control in the second half. Neither team would score, though. Same for the two overtime periods.
The Class 4A state girls soccer championship would come down to penalty kicks.
“It was super nerve-racking, but we’ve been preparing all season long, practicing PKs. We came in really confident,” said Camas keeper Keely Wieczorek. “We knew we had the better team and more grit. That’s what it came down to. We had confidence in each and every one of our PK takers, and they put them in the back of the net when we needed it.”
Keely Wieczorek with one of her two saves during the penalty kicks for the Class 4A girls soccer state championship. She said she read the opposition’s hips and knew exactly where to go to bake the saves. Photos courtesy Kris Cavin
They did, but in order to win in PKs, the other team has to miss, as well. Or, in this case, the Camas goalkeeper had to be remarkable. Wieczorek made the right move on all four shots she faced, stopping two of them. Two saves in PKs, opening the door for a Camas title.
“You’re just reading their hips at this point, and their plant foot,” Wieczorek said. “You can’t look at their eyes. At this level, they can trick you. I just went off pure reaction. I didn’t guess on those. If they put it anywhere around me, I’m going to get ‘em. Just reaction time.”
She got them. Twice.
“OK, she’s going to put this away and that’s the state title right there,” Wieczorek said, thinking about her teammate’s next shot.
Nora Melcher stepped to the ball. Slowly.
“I wanted to make sure I was taking my time. That’s why I walked the whole way from the 50-yard line. I wanted to take my time and allow myself to calm down because it’s super nerve-racking,” Melcher said. “I tried to remember, ‘Best-case scenario, we win state. Worst-case scenario, we have to take another PK. Either way, it’s not the end of the world.’ I just tried to remain cool. Then, OK, just tap it into the net. And I did.”
Only not so fast.
There was just a bit of confusion. Was that the end? Was it over? The official blew her whistle again, and yes, the Papermakers, coached by Keri Tomasetti, were perfect for the season.
“That was the best feeling in the world, ever,” Melcher said. “I don’t even think we knew we won for a second there. Everyone hesitated. Then they all ran in to hug me.”
Earlier in the PKs, Maya Parman, Loughney, and Madeline Johnson made their shots, as well. Camas won the PKs 4-2.
There were a lot of tears of joy that night.
The 2019 Papermakers did not make it to the state tournament. There was no state tournament in 2020, but in the abbreviated season, the Papermakers went undefeated. With that COVID season and this fall season, Camas has won 34 in a row.
“For this team not to be able to compete for the state title last year …” Loughney said. “For having such a long build-up to this and then having a really good semifinal game, then taking our time to solidify that win. … When it finally clicked that we won, it was a little emotional.”
The team, and trophy, ended up at a nearby Red Robin on Saturday night. Then the bus ride home, featuring a lot of singing.
Sunday was for snoozing.
“I fell asleep every time I was doing my homework because I was so tired,” said senior Jasmine Whittington. “My body was so exhausted. From the second the season ended, my body knew it could turn off. Bruises were showing up randomly. I don’t even know where they were coming from. I’m finding a new ache every day. But it was all worth it. It was worth the pain.”
Johnson said she went on a few errands and did some shopping.
“Every couple of minutes, ‘We just won state. That happened.’ It doesn’t seem like it set in. Obviously there’s pictures and we got a trophy. But we actually won? It’s so surreal,” Johnson said.
She recalled talking to some of her teammates after the abbreviated season.
“We’re going to be really good next year,” was the theme. “Winning. Wow. It’s just incredible.”
The Camas girls soccer program has been among the best in Washington for decades. The Papermakers have made it to the WIAA state tournament 17 times since 2000. This is the team’s third state title and first since the dominant 2016 squad.
“When I came in my freshman year, hearing about the 2016 team was something,” Whittington said. “I imagined being there one day, being a state champ. We went out and played our hearts out and ended up winning it. It was like I was a freshman, imagining myself holding up the trophy.”
The fast, fundamentally sound 2021 squad went undefeated even if they did not “look” like the best team in the state.
“We’re the short team,” junior Morgan Wetzel said. “People look at us … ‘You guys are really short.’ People underestimate us because of our height. Sometimes small is better.”
In this case, perfect.
Just like the 2016 team inspired the next champion, so will the 2021 team.
“We’re setting the precedent for the next generation,” senior Emerson Grafton said. “The freshmen see who we are.”
They see champions.