Columbia River hopes to defend state title; Skyview and Mountain View open postseason this week
The Columbia River Chieftains won the Class 2A state boys soccer title a year ago, they are undefeated this season, and the scary thing is they might be even better next year.
OK, stop. Just stay right here.
The Chieftains have high expectations, but right now, those expectations only pertain to 2019.
“The goal is to play the best we can, to play at our standard,” said junior center back Alex Ashmore.
Ultimately another state championship is the destination.
“But if we aren’t playing to our standard, now way we can get there,” Ashmore said.
So far, so good.
Columbia River rolled to the Class 2A Greater St. Helens League title, giving up two goals in 12 league matches. The Chieftains then opened the district tournament Saturday with a 7-0 win over W.F. West.
While River already started its postseason, the other two Clark County high school boys soccer league champions get going this week.
Mountain View, the 3A GSHL champion, plays at 7 p.m. Tuesday at McKenzie Stadium in a winner-to-state match against Peninsula.
Skyview, the 4A GSHL champion, plays at 6 p.m. Thursday at Kiggins Bowl against Rogers of Puyallup in a winner-to-state, loser-out match.
Today, we celebrate the league champions with notes on each team. We will start with the defending state champions.
Class 2A GSHL
Columbia River (16-0-1, 12-0 GSHL)
There are stars on this team, naturally. Can’t be this good without stars. Jake Connup is a hat trick machine.
But teams also must have those solid role players, the ones who don’t pile up a lot of statistics but keep doing all the things that make a team so successful.
At Columbia River, that’s Ashmore.
“He’s always taking care of business,” Columbia River coach Filly Afenegus said. “Mr. Dependable. All of his teammates know how important he is to us. He’s such an amazing leader. He’s been like that since Day One. Most reliable players I have ever had. Just very consistent.”
That praise meant a lot to Ashmore.
“I’m here. I’m willing to work. I will sacrifice everything for my team,” Ashmore said. “I never take a day off for them. I think that’s dependable. That’s how I’d define it.”
The center back “holds down the fort,” he said. Maybe he’s not always pressing, but he is in constant communication with his teammates.
“You give all you can so the forwards and midfielders can do their jobs the best they can,” Ashmore said.
At Columbia River, that has been near-perfect this season.
The Chieftains tied their fifth match of the season against 4A GSHL champion Skyview. Every other contest has ended with a Columbia River victory. The Chieftains outscored their league opponents 58-2.
That stat shows the team’s focus. After all, as defending state champions, the Chieftains get everybody’s best shot.
Now in the playoffs, every opponent wants to be the one that knocks off the champions.
“It holds you to a really high standard, knowing everyone wants to beat us,” Ashmore said. “It drives us even more. It’s a fun pressure.”
Columbia River returns to action tonight with a 7 p.m. home match against Centralia in the district semifinals. The winner goes to the title game and qualifies for state. The loser falls into the consolation bracket and will still have a chance to go to state.
Other 2A GSHL teams
Woodland is at Tumwater at 7 p.m. tonight in the other semifinal. Ridgefield and R.A. Long lost first-round matches Saturday and are in the consolation bracket.
Skyview (11-3-2, 6-2 GSHL)
The Storm lost their first league match of the year. Immediately, the defending league champs were in a hole.
They bounced back to win three in a row and after another setback, won their last three to capture another title in a very competitive league.
“To win the title two years in a row means a lot to the young men of our 2019 squad,” Skyview coach Colleen McKinney said. “It shows them that their habits and goals are obtainable with hard work and that they are able to begin to build on a tradition from the 2018 title-winning team.”
The Storm lost to Heritage twice. Both times, they responded like champions. And that was by design.
The coach said she knew something was special with this group when they started goal-setting and overcoming their tough learning experiences, such as those two losses. McKinney gave the team a quote by Pele, and it seemed to resonate.
“Success isn’t determined by how many times you win, but how you play the week after you lose.”
Well, Skyview just went to work and started winning again.
Now it is playoff time. Skyview hosts Rogers of Puyallup at Kiggins Bowl on Thursday. It is a do-or-die situation. Win, go to state. Lose, season is done.
If Skyview wins, the Storm will play in a state seeding game as well. If Skyview makes a run to the state championship, there are six matches left. No matter how many contests remain, the Storm have goals.
“Everyone is valuable to the team, practice like we play, love what we do, and we get to define who we are,” McKinney said, adding it is a gift to be able to coach this team.
She also credited the quality coaches and programs in the 4A GSHL for making her team better.
Other 4A GSHL teams
Union, the No. 3 seed, is on the road to take on Kentridge at 7 p.m. tonight in a loser-out match. Should the Titans win that one, they would play Puyallup on Thursday for a berth to state. Camas, the No. 2 seed, plays on the road Thursday against Hazen at Ingersoll Stadium in Olympia. If the Papermakers survive, they will play Saturday for a berth to state.
Mountain View (11-4-1, 9-0-1 GSHL)
The Thunder have had an interesting run to the 3A GSHL championship.
“At the beginning, it was kind of unknown,” Mountain View coach Dustin Johnson said.
The Thunder graduated 10 seniors after the 2018 campaign.
“To be honest, I thought it was going to be more of a rebuilding year,” Johnson said. “But a lot of young guys stepped up.”
Mountain View opened the year with a win, but then a tough non-league schedule sent the Thunder to four consecutive losses. It was a stretch that could have buried some young teams. Not this one.
“I just thought we battled,” Johnson said. “Our team had a lot of grit and a lot of fight in them.”
When Mountain View beat Evergreen and Prairie in the first cycle of league play, Johnson started to have a good feeling about his squad.
The Thunder responded by going 10-0-1 after those four consecutive non-league losses.
Johnson noted the leadership of Justin Lufkin-Quant, a soccer player in a football player’s body.
“His presence on the field can really change the game,” the coach said.
A defensive mid-center, Lufkin-Quant does not rack up a lot of statistics, the coach said. But he can dominate an opponent.
Plus, he is a joy for the coaching staff to work with every day.
“He just has an even keel about himself,” Johnson said. “You know exactly what you’re going to get out of him every single practice, every single game. His attitude is something other players look up to. He really embodies what Mountain View soccer really is.”
Now Mountain View soccer has a shot to go on a May run. The Thunder open the postseason at 7 p.m. tonight at McKenzie Stadium against Peninsula. The winner advances to the bi-district semifinals and guarantees a trip to state. The loser would fall into the consolation bracket and still have a shot.
“Just focus on the next one in front of you,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how high we can climb the ladder.”
Other 3A GSHL teams
Prairie, the No. 2 seed, and Evergreen, the No. 3 seed, survived loser-out matches Saturday and advanced to the quarterfinals. Prairie beat North Thurston 3-0 and will travel to face Wilson tonight. Evergreen beat Shelton 3-0 and travels to face Stadium tonight. A win will clinch a berth to state. A loss sends a team to the consolation bracket, still alive.
Toledo United won the league title and is in the district semifinals.
Seton Catholic, the No. 2 seed, won its first-round match at district on Monday with a 5-1 decision over Hoquiam. Seton Catholic will play Forks on Wednesday in a semifinal, a winner-to-state match.
La Center, the No. 3 seed, lost in the district opener and is in the consolation bracket.