Soon after the final horn sounded Tuesday night, Crescent Valley High’s Claire Macy jumped into Cali McClave’s arms and the two embraced for a few seconds.
After two years of disappointment, CV’s girls soccer team was headed to the 5A state title game.
The Raiders were able to pick up their third straight 2-1 road win in the postseason, this time against Mid-Willamette Conference rival West Albany.
Now they get a chance to capture the program’s first title when they take on Churchill at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium. CV last made the title game in 2007, falling in a shootout.
The Lancers, the No. 4 seed, needed a shootout to get past Corvallis in the semifinals.
McClave, who scored the first goal, admitted that it was a bit of a surprise to see the Raiders get over the hump.
“It was kind of unexpected to be here a little bit, not going to lie, at the beginning of the season,” she said.
The Raiders, who lost a plethora of key seniors off last year’s team, started out 2-3-2 as they battled injury.
But since a 0-0 tie with West Albany on Sept. 25 to open the MWC slate, the Raiders have gone 8-1, with the one loss a 1-0 setback at Corvallis.
“It was a rough start but we kept it up and kept working and working and the coaches were helping a lot and players were just giving it their all and people stepped up into positions they’ve never played before,” Macy said. “And everyone brought it. Throughout the season it just got better and better and it all worked out.”
Coach Blake Leamy, who guided the CV boys to a state time in 1996, credited his coaching staff and senior leadership for helping keep the season afloat when it started slowly.
Under Leamy, one of the key components to each season has been developing a culture that helps players deal with the situation at hand and how to move on from tough moments.
“We just kept coaching, kept coaching the culture, we kept coaching about supporting one another and then just kept working with the girls and never gave up on them,” Leamy said. “We really coached hard this year and it’s paid off.”
As Macy alluded to, the Raiders got buy in from several players who switched positions for the betterment of the team.
“People have played in spots where they haven’t played before so they kind of gave up their own personal ego to do something for the team,” Leamy said. “I’m just really thrilled for the whole group.”
Junior goalkeeper Peyton Dale said the team has formed quite a bond this season.
“We’re all really close as a team and all of us are best friends and we connect with each other really well,” she said.
Added McClave: “I think that has helped us because there’s a lot more trust on this team and a lot more, we want to fight for each other.”
While the past two teams may have fallen short of reaching the title game, they set the blueprints for this year’s success.
“I would say that the two past teams, those groups of seniors, those two classes, have a lot to do with where we’re at today,” Leamy said. “We learned a lot as a program on how to get here and the girls have taken those lessons from all those other players.”
The Raiders have won three playoff games — all by 2-1 scores — against teams they met in the regular season. They lost to Wilsonville (5-3) and Willamette (2-1) and tied West (0-0).
CV gets another crack at a team it lost to early in the season, having fallen 1-0 at Churchill to open the season.
“It just feels so good to be one of the last teams standing,” Dale said. “I don’t know, it’s just a really good feeling.”
Macy said she’s sure there will be nerves but thinks the Raiders will be ready.
“As long as we keep playing like we’ve been playing and be aggressive, I think we’ll be good," she said.