HILLSBORO – When Morgan Fry got to Valley Catholic, she had never before coached soccer at any level. The first-year girls soccer coach had been a strength & conditioning coach collegiately for six years previously, working with the women’s soccer programs at every stop.
When she got to the Beaverton high school, Fry admittedly was not a soccer expert, so she leaned into her experience. She made it a point to improve the physical fitness of all 20 players on Valley Catholic’s roster.
“We hit the weight room from Day 1,” Fry said “That was a big goal of mine. We kept that consistent through our in-season training.”
On Saturday, at Liberty High School, all of that work paid off for Valley Catholic at the OSAA / OnPoint Community Credit Union 3A/2A/1A Girls Soccer State Championship. The Valiants wore down top-seeded and two-time defending champion Catlin Gabel, scoring once after intermission and three more times during 20 minutes of overtime to win their fourth state title all-time and first since 2017, when Valley Catholic was in 4A.
The key was conditioning. Catlin Gabel outshot Valley Catholic, 4-3, in the first half of the championship match, which was played end to end on a sun-splashed turn Saturday morning. The Valiants had the clear edge thereafter, outshooting Catlin Gabel, 10-5, after halftime and as the match went into overtime. Valley Catholic lived in Catlin Gabel’s end of the field, putting constant pressure on Catlin Gabel’s terrific back line and freshman keeper Holland Swan, who entered the match having authored eight shutouts in a row.
In the sixth minute of overtime, Valley Catholic broke through with the go-ahead goal. Junior midfielder Elizabeth Louie gathered the ball from 35 yards out and sent a shot sailing high into the air towards the Catlin Gabel goal. Swan, who was a defender to start the year and was forced into goalie duty after the team’s keeper was lost to transfer; had struggled all match to corral balls in the air.
“I tried to put the ball in the air so that it might ricochet and a teammate might get it,” Louie explained.
Louie’s shot was, indeed, mishandled, but, instead of staying in the field of play, it found its way beyond the goal line, giving Valley Catholic a 2-1 lead.
“I was shocked to be honest,” Louie said. “I’m happy in went in but was shell shocked at the same time.”
Valley Catholic added two more goals in the second 10-minute overtime, both by Player of the Game Malia Groshong.
“She is a phenomenal athlete to watch and very versatile,” Fry said. “I know I can put her at every position and she thrives.”
In the 93rd minute, Groshong, one of eight juniors on a team with only one senior, played give-and-go (and give again) with freshman Haven Zaw-Tun. Groshong gained separation in front of the goal and sent a hard one-timer in the lower left corner that Swan had no chance to save. The goal, with just seven minutes to play, gave the Valiants the insurance goal they needed.
Valley Catholic added one more goal in the game’s waning seconds, when Paulina Filip’s corner kick found Groshong’s foot for a no-doubter, which put the exclamation point on an impressive championship-winning effort.
“We lost our legs and lungs today,” noted Catlin Gabel coach Chris Dorough. “We weren’t quite the same team. Valley Catholic was much more conditioned and looked good through 100 minutes.”
Twice during the regular season, Catlin Gabel and Valley Catholic played. Catlin Gabel prevailed both times: 5-2 in the home season opener, played on its grass field, on Aug. 26; and 2-1 at Valley Catholic on Sept. 15. Dorough worried that this one would be the toughest, as the Eagles were missing top regular-season scorer, freshman Addi Dauler, due to injury and had several other players at less than 100 percent after a physically demanding playoff run.
“It’s never easy to beat a team twice in a season, but a third time is even tougher,” Dorough said before the match. “We knew each other well from those games and playing in the same league. This game will come down to a player or two stepping up in big moments.”
Despite the challenges, Catlin Gabel managed to hold the lead for 52 minutes, thanks largely to a defense anchored by seniors Grace Mueller and Willa Whalen Stewart.
The Eagles scored their lone goal in the opening minute of the match. A shot deflected wide of the goal produced a corner kick for the Eagles. Campbell Swaim, one of the team’s assists leaders; took the corner right of the goal and drove a low ball into the box right to junior midfielder Pia Patrikson, who directed it past Valiant keeper Paige Everson and into the goal.
The match was played end to end for the rest of the half, but Valley Catholic had the better of the scoring chances, as sophomore forward Mackenzie McCollister was very active. Most did not come from close range, however. The most dangerous chance came in the 13th minute from Groshong. Her strike from more than 30 yards out clanged hard off the crossbar and back into the field of play. Other threats came off of set pieces from the booming leg of freshman Madison Groshong. Valley Catholic, at every opportunity, sent long balls toward the goal, hoping for a rebound or a mishandle.
“I saw opportunities and I told them to capitalize,” Fry said. “They knew the mission.”
“We try to limit fouls we give up, but we gave up quite a few set pieces today,” Dorough said. “That freshman had outstanding service She was unbelievable. We gave her a lot of opportunities and eventually it caught up with us.”
Catlin Gabel had an opportunity to add to its lead in the closing seconds of the half, when a cross by Abby Greenspan created a dangerous chance. But the Eagles were not able to capitalize.
Malia Groshong was the best player on the field in the second half. The junior consistently created opportunities for herself and her teammates, with spirited runs, savvy shot making and skilled footwork.
She did not, however, figure into the game-tying goal, which took place in the 53rd minute. A long run by Valley Catholic freshman Calista Everson forced Swan off her line and produced a corner kick. Everson took the corner, which seemed innocent enough, until it got by Swan and Catlin Gabel’s defense and bent into the back corner of the goal.
After the Valiants netted the equalizer, Catlin Gabel, which had settled into a defensive posture; tried to open its offense back up again.
“It’s one of the hardest things to do,” Dorough said. “We struggled to hold the ball. In the first half, we had a few opportunities when we had 3-4-5 passes. We panicked a little bit today and were unable to settle down. This is when it hurts us playing on grass and coming to play on turf. It’s a lot different surface.”
With the game hanging in the balance late in regulation, Malia Groshong was relentless. The only thing she did not do was find the back of the net. Overtime ensued as a result, where she found the polish to shine her star.
Catlin Gabel’s six seniors finished their senior seasons with a 15-2 record. They were 53-5-4 for their careers with state crowns in 2019 and 2021.
Valley Catholic lost in the 4A quarterfinals a year ago but won in its return to 3A this season. By making the final, the Valiants broke a streak dating to 2014 of Catlin Gabel and Oregon Episcopal School meeting for the state title.
Valley Catholic now has four titles between 3A and 4A over the past 10 years. And, with every starter returning, the Valiants could be on the verge of a dynasty in 3A/2A/1A.
Time to hit the weight room, girls.
Your coach would expect nothing less.