In a key showdown with Oregon West Conference title implications on the line, the Philomath High School girls soccer team dominated Stayton Thursday in a 2-0 shutout.
Although a two-goal victory may not sound like domination, the Warriors controlled possession for most of the game’s 80 minutes and outshot the Eagles by a large margin.
“We’re definitely building up strong, everybody’s getting better,” junior defenseman Mia Rust said. “We’re still moving people around to the right positions and we have a very young team but we’re coming together really well. I’m really proud of the girls on the team and I think we’re definitely going to be coming into the second part of league really strong and coming out of league really strong and straight into the playoffs.”
Philomath (5-2-2 overall, 5-0-2 Oregon West) remains in contention for the league title. Woodburn sits atop the standings at 6-0-1 with the Warriors right behind at 5-0-2. If Philomath takes care of business against lesser teams in the league, the regular-season finale at home against Woodburn should be for the conference championship. The Bulldogs still need to play Stayton for a second time.
“We’ve been adding pieces each week of the year and I think we’re at this part of the season where we’ve been putting it all together,” PHS coach Mat Phelps said. “We control possession, we’ve got lots of opportunities. Defensively, we’re really strong, we’re covering for each other really well.”
Philomath has shut out five of its last six opponents and Stayton failed to score in a game for the first time all season.
“It’s definitely been a long week with homecoming and everyone’s tired, but we just kept pushing through all practices and through all 80 minutes of both games, play as a team and hope we come out on top,” said Rust, who anchors the exceptional defensive unit as center back.
Philomath scored both of its goals in the second half after failing to finish on various opportunities over the first 40 minutes. Junior Kaili Saathoff had opportunities in the first 10 minutes with one shot right at the keeper, another that sailed high and a third that landed wide left on a header.
Junior Alivia Pittman also had a couple of opportunities, one of which required an exceptional save by Stayton’s goalkeeper after receiving a pass from Saathoff. Senior Madison Rogers had a chance on a free kick and junior Braedyn McNeely missed by about 2 feet on a shot toward the top right corner of the net.
But in the second half, Philomath’s luck changed when it came to finishing. On one of the prettiest goals this season, junior Chloe Jurva scored on a bender with an assist to Rogers.
“We talked about that this week — we wanted to do a little more shooting from the outside,” Phelps said in reference to the Jurva goal, which came in the 47th minute. “Typically, we cross a lot but we wanted to take some of those outside shots and she did.”
In the 53rd minute, Philomath scored again when Rogers hit the net following a corner kick by McNeely. With the way that game had unfolded, it appeared that two goals would be enough to secure the victory.
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“One of the strengths of our team is defensively we’re very strong,” Phelps said. “We have great girls that play together, they cover each other well, and they’re tenacious, and so it’s always something we hang our hat on.”
Philomath had several other chances to score and in the late going, Stayton put together a few offensives. Warriors keeper Hailie Couture made two big saves late in the game.
Saathoff left the game at around the 57th minute when she and a Stayton player collided and knocked heads. Saathoff suffered a cut to her nose but Phelps said she will be OK.
In other player news, Phelps said Halle Hewitt, a senior captain, would return to practice Friday and should be available for the team’s game Tuesday at Sweet Home.
Philomath 2, Stayton 0
Thursday at Philomath
STAYTON (5-3-1, 4-2-1) 0 0 — 0
PHILOMATH (5-2-2, 5-0-2) 0 2 — 2
Second half — 1, Philomath, Chloe Jurva (Madison Rogers), 47th minute; 2, Philomath, Madison Rogers (Braedyn McNeely), 53rd minute.