Senior Holland Swan, the defender-turned-keeper, was the hero Saturday afternoon as Catlin Gabel defeated defending champion Valley Catholic, 2-1, in an OSAA /OnPoint Community Credit Union girls soccer 3A/2A/1A championship match that needed penalty kicks and extra kicks to determine a victor.
Swan made one final save to finalize the shootout, 5-4 in Catlin Gabel’s favor, and give the Eagles their third title in the last four sanctioned OSAA tournaments and their state-record 16th title.
While Catlin Gabel hadn’t been in a penalty kick shootout for 10 years, the Eagles practice them all the time. To be ready for moments like this.
“In shoot outs, we say, ‘Holland just give us one save,” said Eagle head coach Chris Dorough. “Today she gave us three!”
“I just tried to keep a level head and breathe,” Swan said. “But three? I’m just as shocked as you are. I didn’t really expect to do that.”
Catlin Gabel had its keeper leave the school last year just before the start of the season.
Swan, a defender who had never before played in goal, agreed to take on the role. With her in net, the Eagles made it all the way to the state championship match, only to lose to Valley Catholic, 4-1, in overtime. Swan did not have her best match, aa she struggled to control balls in the air.
Today was sweet redemption. Swan smothered the first ball that came into her area and yielded just one goal while making three saves.
“She’s put in the work and has gotten better and better,” Dorough said. “Last year in the championship it wasn’t her day. She has the best attitude and made some good saves today and all year long.”
One hundred minutes of play was not enough to decide the outcome between two teams with a combined record coming in to the championship match of 31-1-2.
The lone blemish came when Valley Catholic blanked Catlin Gabel, 2-0, on Sept. 14.
“They got a goal 90 seconds in and we were on the back foot the entire time,” Drough explained. “After they scored, I thought we were the better side in the first half. In the second we kind of went for it. They got a second goal on a counter and we had a hard time finishing.
“Yes, they beat us but we came away with a lot of confidence that this is a side we can beat. It wasn’t unattainable.”
Catlin Gabel scored the first goal of the game, played in wet, windy conditions at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, in the 16th minute of the match, which to that point, had been played in the midfield with few to no chances by either team. A foul on Valley Catholic gave Catlin Gabel a free kick from 27 yards out and the Eagles turned to senior midfielder Campbell Swaim, their main facilitator.
Swaim put a great strike on the ball and it found the top of the net, over the outstretched hands of Valiant senior keeper Paige Everson.
“I knew I would hit it home,” Swaim said. “Top right. Smash it. Hit it in the goal. That’s where it went. I believed I could do it and I did it.”
Five minutes later, Valley Catholic scored the equalizer. Malia Groshong took a hard-driving free kick from 23 yards out that Swan knocked down but could not control. A scramble in the box ensued before Fabiola Quesada found the lose ball with her foot. The shot clanged off the inside of the post and corkscrewed into the goal to knot things at 1-1.
And that’s how the score stayed for the next 79 minutes. The best scoring chance the rest of the first half came with two minutes to go, but Swan came off her line to thwart a breakaway attempt.
As play wore on in the second half, Catlin Gabel started to have the better chances. In the 57th minute, Swaim sent one into the box that Alana Hill directed to the upper right corner. Everson was there to make a one-handed save.
In the 62 minute, Madi Groshong headed away a dangerous free kick. Groshong also used her feet to defend an Addi Dauler to Annika Sirtori chance a few minutes later.
In the 73rd minute, Catlin Gabel had perhaps its best shot at regaining the lead when Hill hit the post with a shot and Everson saved the rebound.
“As the play went on I thought we were the better side,” Dorough said. “The chances in that second half kept coming for us…hit the post…we unfortunately had to go to OT, but we had a lot of confidence that we were going to get one. We had to be careful because they’ve got some good athletes. They played the long ball and we had to be on it all day so one didn’t get through.”
Neither team made a serious threat in the two, 10-minute overtime periods. There were several dangerous chances produced due to free kicks, but the ball clanged into the wall more often that it created a viable scoring opportunity.
The penalty kick shootout was drama-filled and tense.
“PKs are really stressful,” Everson said. “The goalkeepers have an immense amount of stress going on. I know I am zoned in trying to figure out which way they’re going to go. For kickers, it’s just as stressful.”
“Penalties are always stressful but I was confident in my team and myself,” Swaim said.
Swaim took the first PK and scored to the left of Everson’s dive.
“I went bottom right and smashed it home,” Swaim said. “I was excited because we were in the lead and the pressure was on them.”
Valley Catholic’s first attempt failed, as Swan dove left for the save.
Catlin Gabel had a chance to take control of the shootout on its next attempt, but the shot sailed wide of the goal. Calista Everson, who was terrific all match in the defensive zone, scored for the Valiants to take the kicks at 1-1 after two rounds.
Both Catlin Gabel and Valley Catholic netted their next two penalties, with Dauler and Pia Patrickson doing the honors for the Eagles and Madi Groshong and Paulina Filip countering for Valley Catholic.
Tied at 3-3 entering the last of five scheduled kicks, Catlin Gabel was horrified when its attempt missed off of the crossbar. Valley Catholic needed only to convert to repeat as state champions.
Swan, however, guessed correctly and dove left to save the season for the Eagles.
Both Catlin Gabel and Valley Catholic scored in the first round of extra kicks, with senior Eliza Robinson knocking a hard grounder in for the Eagles and Paige Everson, the keeper, scoring easily into the left corner.
Tied at 4-4, freshman Lily Ostrowski then scored for Catlin Gabel to again put the Eagles within one save of the title. Swan looked to her coaches for guidance. They told her to “pick a side and dive.”
She didn’t need to. The strike was not square and dribbled straight to Swan, the easiest of her PK saves.
Swan, who was named Player of the Match for Catlin Gabel, said that she didn’t know the game was over until she saw her teammates stampeding towards her.
“What a great feeling,” she exclaimed.
“I had a lot of belief in our team,” Swaim said. “We’ve improved so much this year. Coming off the loss last year, we wanted to give them a taste of what it feels like to lose. I’m proud of our team for pulling through.”
“We were extremely confident even though we were the underdog,” said Dorough. “Last year we got weaker as the game went on. This year I felt like we were the stronger team. They were ready for this one.”
“I’m proud of my team,” said Paige Everson, one of eight Valley Catholic seniors. “I’m a little disappointed about the outcome but we had a really great season overall. “
Paige Everson said it was one of those games between evenly matched teams that could have gone either way.
“It’s fitting that we played in the finals again, because we were the two best teams,” she explained.
Everson was asked whether the loss hurt a little less because the Valiants won last year. She said, “No.”
“I feel like it hurts more because the girls worked really hard all season,” she said. The girls were hoping to get two in a row.”