GIRLS SOCCER: Underdog Roughriders boot their way to state for second straight year

TACOMA — The Port Angeles girls apparently love it on the road and love being underdogs.

For the second straight year, the Port Angeles soccer girls shocked the West Central District by qualifying for the state 2A soccer tournament with a 3-1 win Saturday over Lindbergh, the ninth-ranked team in the state.

After losing three out of their last four regular-season games (and only scoring one goal in those three losses), the Port Angeles girls definitely hit a lull, said coach Scott Moseley.

“We sort of limped into the playoffs. I was a little concerned which team would show up” at districts, Moseley said.

Well, fortunately for the Roughriders, the Dr. Jekyll Riders arrived at District (or Mr. Hyde Riders if you’re a Port Angeles opponent). Port Angeles entered the West Central playoffs as a No. 4 seed out of the Olympic League 2A Division. Much like last year, they got hot in the postseason, winning three out of four matches at district — and in all three cases beating higher seeds.

In fact, the Roughriders’ only loss in the district tournament was to the No. 1-ranked 2A team in the state, White River, and that game was tied 0-0 at the half.

“Really, they played even with the No. 1 team in the state minus one minute of mistakes,” said coach Scott Moseley. “I think that gave them the idea they could play with the top teams in the state.”

Playing in Tacoma against playoff teams from Kitsap County and the South Puget Sound League, the Roughriders have by far the longest to travel for the district games. Moseley said that Port Angeles has played eight out of its past nine games on the road and counting all the travel to the games in Tacoma and its state tournament games coming up in Yakima, will have traveled this season the equivalent distance of Port Angeles to Cleveland.

Lindbergh came in to Saturday’s game with a 14-5-1 record (and two of those five losses were to undefeated White River) while Port Angeles entered the game 11-8. The Riders had to go up against a talented striker for the Eagles, Thao Nguyen. Nguyen scored five goals in Lindbergh’s playoff win over Highline Oct. 28.

“Every coach we talked to said stop Nguyen and followed up with ‘good luck, it’s scary every time she touches the ball’,” said Moseley.

Sure enough, despite the Riders concentrating their defense on her, Nguyen scored a goal for the Eagles in the first five minutes of the match to give Lindbergh a 1-0 lead. It was the only damage allowed by Port Angeles all match, however.

“We started slow and didn’t have depth on her and she was able to turn, get to goal and blast a shot in,” Moseley said.

Port Angeles bounced back quickly, tying the game in the ninth minute. A shot by Sierra Robinson was blocked, but the rebound went to Emilia Long, who scored her team-leading 16th goal of the year.

Moseley said the Riders kept up the pressure, with a pair of shots by Long and Cheyenne Wheeler hitting the crossbar. Port Angeles took the lead in the 26th minute when a crossing pass by Long found Emily Boyd for a goal to make it 2-1.

“Our second goal was what we have working on all season—defender Delaney Wenzl had a beautiful pass through their defense, [Long] crosses a perfect ball and Emily worked hard to get to far post for the put in.” Moseley said.

“Every goal is a team effort. I was just in the right place at the right time,” Boyd said.

Port Angeles’ defense was even better in the second half, completely shutting down Nguyen and the Eagles, who did not even manage a shot at goal all half. For the game, the Riders outshot the Eagles 18 to 5, with 13 shots on goal and only two for Lindbergh.

“It’s hard to single out any one defender as they all had outstanding games in a total team effort.” Moseley said.

Wenzl gave the Riders an insurance goal in the 55th minute when she headed in a Long corner kick for her 10th goal of the year. It was Long’s 14th assist of the season as she has tallied 46 points in her freshman year.

“[Long] played a beautiful ball from the corner leading it right in front of the goal and room to just head the ball in,” said Wenzl.

“It means so much to return to state, not only because it is my senior year but because I know this team is capable of so much. The chemistry this team has built together over the years is unlike anything I’ve been a part of,” Boyd said.

With the win, the Riders qualified for state as a No. 5 seed. As a low seed, they play a No. 1 seed in East Valley. The game will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday at East Valley’s home field. East Valley won the Central Washington District tournament, though they entered the tournament as a No. 4 seed (they beat the No. 3 and No. 1 seeds) and have an overall record of 9-7.

But, as they have shown all year, the Port Angeles girls don’t mind the underdog role.