ADs give their perspective while watching championship games
The WIAA hosts nearly every spring championship — softball, soccer, baseball, track and field, and tennis — on the same day at several points across the state. It turned out, Clark County had two teams in championship games.
The Woodland Beavers would win their second consecutive 2A softball title, and the Columbia River Chieftains lost a heartbreaker in the 2A boys soccer championship
Rather than focusing on one team, attending one event and missing the other, we took the opportunity to let each school’s athletic director share their experiences during the title games.
We interviewed Paul Huddleston of Woodland via phone two times during the softball team’s title game in Selah and again after the game. A few hours later, we did the same with Tony Liberatore of Columbia River soccer.
The athletic directors, at this stage, are just like fans. Not only are they hoping to see a victory for the teams they are watching, they also are following updates around the state in other sports.
These are their stories, going back and forth:
Paul Huddleston, Woodland AD, via phone from Selah:
At this point, it was scoreless in the second inning between Woodland and W.F. West.
“It’s going better for the team than me,” Huddleston said. “I’m a wreck.”
He added that the Beavers had hit the ball hard but could not find a hole in the defense.
“Hope they can get it going. It would be nice to get a lead and not put it all on Olivia.”
That would be Woodland pitcher Olivia Grey, who was awesome in this game … this tournament … this season … this high school career.
Huddleston took a look around at the crowd, too.
“The best part is it’s not just the parents. People coming over here are long-time community members. That’s what is nice about a small town. You get that,” Huddleston said.
The student-athletes know it is not just about them.
“It’s representing Woodland and our community,” Huddleston said. “There is a bigger picture. It’s great to be a part of it.”
There were track and field athletes in Tacoma competing, too. Tyler Flangan won the 300 hurdles title in dramatic fashion.
“I can’t be at two places at once. It killed me not to be there,” Huddleston said of Flanagan’s run. “I wish I could clone myself.”
Still, he said days such as Saturday are the best aspects of his job.
Back to softball …Still zero-zero.
“Now we need to get a couple runs on the board so my heart will quit beating out of my chest,” he said. “I just try not to show my nerves.”
Tony Liberatore, Columbia River AD, via phone from Sumner
About 12 minutes into the first half against Sehome, the match was scoreless.
“It’s going back and forth. We’ve had a couple not-super good chances. Sehome has dominated the last four or five minutes,” Liberatore reports. “Soccer is a game of attrition. We’ll see.”
Before he continued, he saw an opportunity on the field.
“Sehome’s got a little run right now. Uh oh. Ooooo. Oooooh. No penalty,” Lberatore says, before explaining that a River defender got the ball out of danger and he was relieved there was no penalty called on the play.
Liberatore was in Sumner when Columbia River senior Faith Grisham was winning the Class 2A state singles title in girls tennis Seattle.
“It’s super fun. It’s awesome,” Liberatore said of being an AD on a day like Saturday. “I wish we could get one centralized place for all this stuff.”
He said he would be one of those ADs who would try to get to as many events as he could if all the events were in the same area.
And on Friday, Levi Williams won the pole vault title.
“It was truly a state championship weekend for Columbia River,” Liberatore said.
Just then, Columbia River had a scoring chance.
“There it is! One-noth…,” but he stopped himself from completing the score. “Oh no. The ball went off to the side.”
No goal after all.
“The heart beats. I can feel it with the kids,” Liberatore said. “Probably not as stressful, but definitely, I want them to win.”
3:03 p.m. from Selah.
Since last talking to Huddleston, the Beavers had taken a 3-0 lead. Kaily Christensen hit a two-run home run and Kelly Sweyer hit a solo shot that might be in Earth’s orbit by now. Two innings left. Can Woodland hold off W.F. West?
“You never fully relax,” Huddleston said. “But Kaily with a two-run shot and Kelly hit the longest home run I’ve ever seen. The best part? They are staying loose. The girls are doing a good job of enjoying the moment. I’m the only one who appears to be nervous around here.”
W.F. West, with its great tradition in this sport and a strong lineup, is not out of it yet, Huddleston cautions.
“They still have two at-bats. I’m not even close to relaxing,” Huddleston said. “I’ll relax once it’s over. Hopefully we can hold on.
“The girls are playing hard. It’s a proud moment no matter what happens.”
6:37 p.m. from Sumner
Liberatore answered his phone just as Columbia River has a scoring chance, trailing 1-0 midway through the second half.
“Ooooooh, ooooooh, dangit,” Liberatore says. “We were there. We’re not getting the breakts.”
It was at that moment the Sehome goalkeeper ran away from his net to grab the ball. He missed it, though, and for a second or so, it was anybody’s ball with an open net. Columbia River would not capitalize.
“We’re getting flurries but can’t connect,” Liberatore says. “Our defense is awesome. Theirs is equal. This is just … they got the break, and we haven’t been able to make one yet.”
Sehome got its breakwhen Julius Ellison put one in the net on a header at the 32nd minute mark.
Sehome’s defense has done the rest up to this point.
“I’ve seen every boys playoff game for the last three seasons,” the AD said. “This defense? These guys … they’re just covering it.”
Liberatore started thinking back to the last time Columbia River needed an equalizer in the second half. It happened this season against Skyview.
“We’ll see here,” as he says goodbye, preparing to watch the final 17 minutes of regulation.
4:25 p.m. from Selah
It is an hour or so after Woodland won its second consecutive state softball title. Huddleston had a little bit of time to talk but had to get to a nearby lake, to watch the Beavers celebrate by, yes, running into the lake.
“I can finally calm down,” Huddleston said.
“You’re so happy for them. You’ve seen them along the way. Every season, there’s going to be ups and downs, challenges. To watch a team go through what teams normally go through, and to have it end like that … only one team gets to have that celebration,” Huddleston said. “Just so happy for them.”
7:40 p.m. from Sumner
The Chieftains did not find the net, but oh did they try.
Liberatore said there were at least three shots in the final two minutes as the Chieftains kept pressing to tie the match. Didn’t happen.
One header hit the post and fell on the line, but did not cross the line.
“The header, the one I thought was in, it died on the far post,” Liberatorre said. “I don’t know how that didn’t go in. I don’t know. Dang.”
He said there were mixed emotions after the match. Everyone is down following a 1-0 loss, but Liberatore also noted just how incredible this Columbia River soccer run has been over the past two seasons. There was a tie in there, but Liberatore said the team has gone 106 weeks without a loss.
“I can’t say enough of what the staff does,” Liberatore said of coach Filly Afenegus and his assistants.
At River, the same staff coaches the girls. The girls team has gone to four consecutive final fours.
“It’s very cool to see,” Liberatore said.
In other parts of the state, Columbia River athletes were shining in tennis and track and field.
“I’m just happy for our kids that they are able to compete at the highest level, on the greatest stage for our state,” he said.
Here is a roundup of the team sports from a busy Saturday:
Woodland No. 1 again: Olivia Grey threw a no-hitter, striking out 16 in the championship game. Kaily Christen hit a two-run home run and Kelly Sweyer crushed a solo shot as the Beavers claimed their second consecutive Class 2A state title with a 3-0 win over W.F. West.
Grey finished the season with one earned run against her. One.
The Beavers beat Eatonville, Lynden, Sehome and W.F. West in the state tournament by a combined score of 22-0.
Meanwhile, Ridgefield finished third in the 2A tournament. The Spudders lost to W.F. West in the semifinals, then won two in a row to take third place. With Tumwater finishing fourth, Southwest Washington’s District 4 had all four placers in this tournament.
In the 3A tourney, Mountain View lost in the semifinals earlier Saturday when Yelm scored three runs in the seventh inning for a 3-1 victory. The Thunder ended up getting a fourth-place trophy.
In the 4A tourney, Camas and Battle Ground lost in the opening round Saturday. Their first-round games were postponed Friday by rain. Skyview, which had won Friday, lost in the quarterfinals Saturday.
Camas ended up beating Skyview in the consolation bracket and Battle Ground would end up beating Camas. As of 8 p.m. Saturday, Battle Ground was supposed to be playing in the consolation semifinals. The WIAA was hoping to get the tournament finished late tonight.
River takes second place: Sehome got a first-half goal from Julius Ellison and that stood in a 1-0 defensive battle against Columbia River.
The Chieftains, who won the 2018 title, take second place this spring.
Columbia River keeper Miles Miranda had a number of saves, including two back-to-back highlights to keep the Chieftains within one, according to Dan Trujillo of the Eli Sports Network.
The Chieftains had several attacks in the closing minutes but did not get the equalizer.
In 3A soccer, Mountain View lost 2-0 to Interlake in the third-place match. The Thunder took fourth place, the first trophy for the program since 2012.
The Skyview Storm’s third consecutive trip to the final four did not go their way. After losing to a perfect game Friday, the bats did not get going Saturday. The Storm finished fourth after falling 2-0 in the third-place game against Issaquah. It is the program’s fourth trophy since 2013.