Saturday’s State 1B/2B Girls Soccer: Loggers Answer ‘Wake Up Call’ from Friday Harbor
Final Four: Onalaska Bound for Semifinals with 4-2 Win Over Wolverines
By Jordan Nailon
Coming into Saturday’s girls soccer state playoff matchup against Friday Harbor all of the numbers seemed to be in Onalaska’s favor.
The Loggers, acting as hosts for the contest thanks to their top seeding, were fresh off a district championship victory and sitting at 13-4-1 overall on the season. Meanwhile, the Wolverines were sitting at just 8-7 with nearly 200 miles between their home pitch and the turf of Tiger Stadium.
After just 45 seconds of play, however, the only numbers that mattered was the score — Friday Harbor 1, Onalaska 0.
Luckily for the Loggers they were able to muster an adequate response almost immediately and went on to defeat the Wolverines 4-2. But from the outset it was obvious that Friday Harbor wasn’t going to fade away without a fight.
“At state you have to be a little nervous,” said Onalaska coach Chris VanClifford. “It’s tough when you have teams from different districts that are far away that don’t play common opponents. Even if you watch a little bit of tape it’s just so hard to tell.”
Onalaska began the game with possession and pushed the ball all the way up to the Wolverines’ keeper within the first 20 seconds of play. Less than 30 seconds later, though, Friday Harbor had managed to flip the field entirely with Fallon Taylor sneaking a shot through a shifting Loggers’ defense.
“On the defensive side of things we have to be really careful about breakaways. I think right at the beginning of the game we hadn’t started moving yet and so we weren’t quite ready for a breakaway like that,” said VanClifford. “I was hoping at that point that it was just a wake up call, and luckily it was. There was a lot of scoring early in the game.”
Sophomore Onalaska midfielder Callie Lawrence agreed with her coach’s assessment of the situation.
“That first goal was definitely a defensive thing where we weren’t talking so we just knew we had to get back up and figure it out,” said Lawrence.
The Loggers’ rebuttal arrived just two minutes later when Autumn Russ created space deep in Friday Harbor territory and slipped a shot past their keeper. Just over two minutes after that score it was Savannah Gifford who found the back of the net thanks in part to an assist from Brooklyn Sandridge.
All the Loggers in Lewis County agreed that the quick response was pivotal for Onalaska to be able to swing the momentum in their favor for good.
“That definitely keeps you going to just come back and say, ‘Hey, we got this and we’re going to punch it back in and make it happen.’ That felt good right after that goal to get one right back. All of a sudden it’s 1-1 and it’s like we’re starting all over,” explained VanClifford.
With their legs firmly underneath them following their unsteady start Onalaska added a third goal in the 11th minute when Cierra Russ laced a free kick into the top shelf of the goal just beyond the keeper’s reach.
With all the early scoring Onalaska’s 3-1 lead at the intermission was anything but a sure thing. Sure enough, Friday Harbor took just five minutes into the second half before they notched their second goal of the game and cut their deficit to just one score.
Onalaska’s defense again quickly found their bearings in time to hold off a frantic attack by Friday Harbor. That defensive scramble continued until Callie Lawrence was able to provide a little more breathing room with a breakaway goal in the 67th minute.
“I think it was pretty important but I also think that anyone could have done it,” Lawrence noted. “It just happened to be me because I finally did something good. I just dribbled up the field and I was open so I took it.”
That sidewinding shot from the dead center on goal provided the final advantage for the Loggers and their coach was grateful to enjoy that slight margin for error down the stretch.
“I never felt comfortable until we scored at the end and we were up two. I felt pretty good then. Even when we were up 3-1, I was not comfortable at all. You don’t take any team for granted or think you’ve got it until the whistle blows,” VanClifford said.
The win puts Onalaska in the semifinals against Davenport. After the win on Saturday, VanClifford said he knows just about as much about Davenport as he did about Friday Harbor.
“They have a fast midfielder. I don’t know much beyond that,” said VanClifford.
No matter the style of their opponent, Lawrence likes her team’s chances so long as they play their brand of soccer.
“We just need to clean out our passing and spread out more. And talk more, and we’ll be alright,” insisted Lawrence.
Onalaska will face Davenport next Friday at 4 p.m. at Sunset Stadium in Sumner.