The tradition continues: Columbia River back in girls soccer state semifinals

Columbia River’s girls soccer team is a fixture at the state tournament, advancing to the final four for the sixth consecutive tournament.

This marks the sixth consecutive final four appearance for the Columbia River Rapids

No, the Columbia River Rapids do not book their hotel rooms a year in advance for the state girls soccer tournament.

Oh, they probably could, but no. 

No way. No how. Not going to happen.

“I’m pretty superstitious,” Columbia River coach Filomon Afenegus said. “We don’t book until we clinch it.”

In this case, “it” would be the final four.

Or, as some might say, the Columbia River Invitational.

The team does stay at the same hotel. And team members have been greeted by employees who remember them from the previous year.

Still, gotta stick to the plan. Win and advance. Punch the ticket to the state semifinals. Then book the travel plans.

That plan has worked now for six consecutive seasons.

Columbia River is back in the Class 2A state semifinals. The program also made it to the final four two of the previous four seasons when it was in Class 3A, giving the squad eight trips in the past 10 tournaments.

“We’re fortunate enough to have had amazing kids come through our program and amazing families,” Afenegus said. “We’ve been able to build a culture to the point where it’s almost a standard. I wouldn’t say the expectation is that we have to get to state in order to be successful, but it’s almost how it feels.”

Winning is contagious.

“That’s been a big driving force. The seniors doing it this year saw it four years ago when they were freshmen,” Afenegus said. “The freshmen are seeing it now. It’s not something we always talk about, but it’s just kind of there.”

The past is the past, and the future will be determined. For right now, though, Columbia River is all about this journey to Shoreline for the 2022 final four. The Rapids face district rival Tumwater in one semifinal. The match begins at 5 p.m. Friday. The winner will play in the championship match at 5 p.m. Saturday. (Friday’s loser will play for third place at 1 p.m.)

Every team is different and special in its own way. All have star players, plus leaders. Afenegus wanted to highlight the dedication of Alia Rust.

The goalkeeper made “some huge, huge incredible saves to get the win for us,” Afenegus said of the quarterfinal victory over West Valley of Spokane. “She’s beaten up and broken, but she’s training hard every single day. She’s been big for us down this homestretch.”

Rust has been battling through injuries, plus she’s diving in practice every day. Afenegus said that can take a toll.

“She’s been kicked, bumped, hit in games,” Afenegus said. “She has been powering through all of those things.”

Rust was doing her part to get the Rapids back to where they always seem to belong this time of year.

Seeding for state soccer tournaments has only been around for a couple of seasons. But it should be noted that these Rapids are the 6-seed in this tournament. Tumwater, for reference, is the No. 2 seed.

“Seedings don’t mean a whole lot. At this point, everybody is a good team,” Afenegus said. “There is less pressure when you are not the No. 1 seed going in. We have the opportunity to play spoiler a little bit.”

True enough, but no one in the Class 2A soccer world would dare overlook Columbia River. The program is seeking its third state title since 2016. 

And the program is always here in mid November. 

Book it.

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