Grant players celebrate after defeating Cleveland 3-2 in overtime in the 6A girls soccer final Saturday. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Grant players celebrate after defeating Cleveland 3-2 in overtime in the 6A girls soccer final Saturday. (Photo by Jon Olson)

SHERWOOD – The first all-Portland Interscholastic League girls soccer state final turned out to be a thriller.

League champion Grant and rival Cleveland went back and forth, delighting a large crowd, before the Generals emerged with a 3-2 overtime win in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A final Saturday night at Sherwood High School.

Junior forward Kate Ratanaproeksa scored off an assist by junior defender Paige Nakada with 4:48 left in the second overtime and the second-seeded Generals (17-2-1) held on for their second title in three seasons.

“Someone has to win the game, and I'm glad it was us,” Grant coach Manolis Tjuanakis said. “But it's tremendous for the conference. For the Grant High School community, it's a big achievement.”

The Generals, who graduated 13 players from a team that lost in the second round last year, completed a surprising return to the top.

“We thought it was going to be a rebuild year,” Nakada said. “We didn't have very much hope. In the beginning of the year we were like, 'Oh, we're just going to have fun.' And then we come out here and win state.”

Cleveland, playing in its first final, had its 17-match unbeaten streak come to an end.

“We came into it knowing it was going to be an even match, and it was,” Cleveland senior Jaidyn Richter said. “It was like whoever's going to get that last goal is going to win.”

The fourth-seeded Warriors (15-2-3) struck first when Richter scored on a header off an assist from senior Elsie Koehler, following a corner kick by junior Lola Pierce, in the 18th minute.

Grant pulled even when senior Bella Bohne found the net two minutes before half, then took a 2-1 lead four minutes into the second half on a breakaway goal by Ratanaproeksa.

It appeared Grant was closing in on the title, but Cleveland wouldn't go quietly, getting a goal from freshman Eleanor Cohen with 10 minutes left to tie 2-2.

“That definitely hurt a little bit, but I knew we were going to come back and win it,” Ratanaproeksa said. “We wanted it so bad, we worked so hard for it. I knew we were the better team, and we worked to make it back.”

Cleveland threatened to take the lead in the 94th minute when Koehler's looping shot from about 20 yards away on the right side caromed off the top of the crossbar.

Two minutes later, Grant got the go-ahead goal. Nakada punched ahead a perfectly timed through-ball to the streaking Ratanaproeksa, who got behind the defense and slipped the ball inside the right post.

“You couldn't ask for a better pass,” Ratanaproeksa said. “I would be told to make that run the whole game. It worked some of the time, but I didn't know it was going to be that open.”

The pass surprised even Nakada.

“I'm going to be honest, when I passed it, I didn't think it was going to get through,” Nakada said. “It went through like three defenders, and one person had their leg out. We had so many offsides calls, and I thought she was going to be off. And she kept going and slotted it in the back. That was exactly what we needed. Perfect timing.”

Prior to the play, Tjuanakis said he asked Ratanaproeksa if she needed a break.

“She waved me off,” he said. “I was about to take her out because I didn't know how she would do, but I'm glad I didn't.”

Ratanaproeksa fought through fatigue to make the winning run through the defense.

“We talked during the short break from the first overtime that there were going to be a lot of tired legs out there,” Tjuanakis said. “So who has the last will, the last kick, to take advantage of those tired legs?

“That was a play that we knew we could take advantage of because Cleveland had the high line defensively.”

Grant, which won its first title in 2021, is establishing itself as a perennial state power with a second title.

“We knew we had the talent, it was a matter of us putting the team together,” Tjuanakis said. “The girls did a fantastic job of adapting to the style that we want to play.”

The PIL's reputation also got a boost this season. Grant beat league rival Lincoln in the semifinals.

“The PIL used to be a league that was kind of slept on a little bit,” Ratanaproeksa said. “Now the championship with two PIL teams, and everyone coming out supporting, just shows how much they care about the sport, and how much it's grown.”

Cleveland set a higher bar for its program.

“People didn't really see us in the past like a good team,” Richter said. “But I think this year is like a really good year for people to notice that we can do things at Cleveland.”