Last season, the Corvallis High girls soccer team embraced its role as an underdog as the Spartans made a run to the state semifinals. This fall, though, playing with a target on their backs has taken a bit of getting used to.
The No.2-seeded Spartans (12-1-2) haven’t lost a match in nearly six weeks and are undefeated against Class 5A opponents this season.
“I definitely feel like we deserve the standing that we have,” Corvallis senior keeper Ana Bechtel said. “But it’s very different and it’s kind of weird; we’re not used to that type of pressure or expectations. It’s nice, but it’s nerve wracking.”
On Tuesday, the Spartans passed their first postseason test as they outlasted a defensive-minded Hillsboro squad and delivered a 1-0 victory at home. The Spartans commanded possession all evening and got a spectacular goal from sophomore Natalie Boragine just before halftime that proved to decide the match.
Corvallis bombarded the Hillsboro defense with 13 shots on target in the first half, but it wasn’t until Boragine’s volley from 25 yards out that the Spartans broke through a tightly-packed defense.
“I always encourage the girls to shoot from the outside,” Corvallis coach Kelli Rice said. “We didn’t get as dangerous of shots as you would like, but we did a good job adjusting in the second half and got it done.”
Corvallis junior forward Anna Dazey put plenty of pressure on the Hillsboro defense all match and worked her way into the box on multiple occasions in the first half, nearly scoring in the 12th and 33rd minutes. Finally, with two minutes until halftime, Boragine recovered the ball after making a tackle and lobbed a shot over the Hillsboro keeper that found the back of the net.
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“As soon as I shot it, I knew that was going in,” Boragine said. “I saw the top-right corner and just went for it. It looked like the keeper was sneaking out a little bit, so I just tried to aim for the corner.”
From that point, the Spartans were in full control. The lone Hillsboro threat came in the 68th minute, when Bechtel rushed out of her goal to make a save in a one-on-one situation. After she made that stop, the ball deflected and she has to quickly react and make another save.
“If a team has made it this far, they’re good,” Bechtel said. “Last year we came in under the radar and we made it far. There’s going to be a team this year that does the same thing. We don’t know which team it’s going to be, and it could be against us. So we just have to be ready.”
With the win, Corvallis advanced to the state quarterfinals for the third consecutive year and will meet a familiar opponent; the Spartans will face off with No.7-seeded Churchill, which handed them a 2-1 loss in last year’s semifinals.
The Spartans and Lancers will play on Nov. 11 at Corvallis at a time that is yet to be determined.
“We left that game with no regrets,” Bechtel said of the Spartans’ loss last season. “We played as hard as we could. Of course we would have wanted to win … But we left it feeling good. We have a mentality like, this is the last team we want to beat us. They beat us last year and they’re not going to do it again.”