HILLSBORO — Panic began to set in for Summit over the final few minutes of Saturday’s Class 5A girls soccer state championship match.
Despite leading 3-2 over No. 1 North Eugene, the No. 2 Storm were being bombarded by a scrambling Highlanders team. Summit, in control for the entire match, was simply trying to hold off the Midwestern League champions on a brisk, cloudy afternoon at Hillsboro Stadium.
Finally, though, with less than a minute remaining, the Storm went on a counterattack. But rather than pushing ahead for another potential score, Summit pulled back and ran out the clock. And with the one-goal victory, the Storm claimed Summit’s sixth state championship, all coming since 2010.
“You just want (the clock) to count down, but time seemed like it was going super slow,” said Storm senior Maggi McElrath, who scored a goal. “When it hit zero, it just felt amazing.”
McElrath continued, choking up with emotion: “To finally make it back here after losing in the semifinals last year, it feels very good.”
Molly Day, a sophomore who transitioned from defender to forward late in the season, conceded that while the Storm had appeared in a number of state championship matches in recent years, they still entered Saturday’s final with some anxiety, especially considering at the start of the season the Storm did not expect themselves to advance this far into the postseason — let alone win the state title.
“There were definitely a lot of nerves,” said Day, who scored the match’s first goal in the 11th minute. “Coming from the beginning of the season, being a completely different team, to where we are now … it’s unreal. There are no words to describe it.”
Summit (16-2) was in control nearly wire to wire against North Eugene, which was making its first appearance in the state final. The Storm outshot their counterparts 12-6, including an 8-3 margin in shots on goal.
“They came at us physically a little bit, and I think they rattled us a little, and we did not respond until I said, ‘Hello? You have to match them physically,’” said North Eugene coach Brandy Wormdahl. “That’s been a problem for us this year, and we struggled with it in the first half.”
Of the first 11 minutes, Summit spent all but 30 seconds on the attack. While the Storm mustered just one shot, their second attempt was the game’s opening goal.
From 18 yards out, Day received a pass from Alexandra Walker, turned quickly to her left and fired a right-footed blast that caromed off the left goal post and into the right side of the net to give Summit a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
“That really calmed us down a lot,” Day said of the goal. “But also, in a way, it made us more excited, to show that (a state title) is in reach and we’re almost there. It calmed us down in the game but hyped us up in our hearts.”
Nine minutes later, McElrath poked in a goal off a corner kick that was redirected by Michaela Gorman to extend the Storm’s lead to 2-0.
Abbey Sellars appeared to cut the deficit in half, but the goal was wiped away by an offside call. Sellars again had a scoring opportunity in the 30th minute, but her chip shot over Summit keeper Capra Williams drifted just to the right of the net, and the Storm took a 2-0 lead into halftime.
Summit had three strong chances to extend its advantage within the first five minutes of the second half, but a shot by Caroline Schutz glanced off the crossbar, and attempts by Alexandra Walker either sailed left or were saved by North Eugene’s Audrey Alhstrom.
With less than 17 minutes remaining, and with the Highlanders (15-2) scrambling to score, North Eugene’s Brittany Smith and Kara Ryker each sent headers toward the goal. But Smith’s attempt went wide to the right, and Ryker’s strike was saved by Williams. Finally, in the 70th minute, the Highlanders got on the scoreboard as Jordan Wormdahl collected a booming kick downfield and beat Williams with an 18-yard goal to trim the Summit lead to 2-1.
In the 76th minute, however, Gabbie Brocker cashed in on a North Eugene turnover to put the Storm ahead 3-1. Less than 30 seconds later, the Highlanders’ Sophie Cleland scored off a Wormdahl assist to bring North Eugene back to within one goal.
“I was proud of them,” Brandy Wormdahl said. “They came back and tried to get themselves back into it. But it just wasn’t our day.”
The Highlanders, though, could not get the equalizer, falling for the first time in 16 matches as Summit claimed its sixth state championship in as many appearances — the most titles by one program without a loss in OSAA boys and girls soccer history.
“The expectation’s been set by groups before them,” said Jamie Brock, Summit’s 13th-year coach. “But they wanted to earn their mark on our piece of Summit history.”
“We lost a lot of strong players last year, so we didn’t know if we would make it (to state),” McElrath added. “To be a part of it is just unreal. Unbelievable. You just want to continue the legacy.”