Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Rachel Raniele's instinct on corner kicks is to try to score.
But when the St. Mary's junior was unsuccessful midway through the first overtime period of a Class 3A/2A/1A girls soccer state quarterfinal game against Catlin Gabel Saturday, the next best thing happened.
Her teammate scored.
Raniele sent an arcing blast toward the Eagles' goal, and while it didn't cross the mouth, it did wind up in the vicinity of senior Amber Moore. Moore gave a little hip shake and bumped the ball across the line before Catlin Gabel's Emma Ronai-Durning could corral it.
The result was a 1-0 triumph at U.S. Cellular Community Park in a battle between two of the state's premier teams.
St. Mary's (11-2-3) advances to the semifinals and will hit the road for a match against another state power, Oregon Episcopal of Portland, on Tuesday. The Eagles (12-1-2) defeated Corbett, 4-0.
Moore's goal came after a scoreless second half.
Freshman Emily Elmore had given St. Mary's a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute, and Catlin Gabel (7-7-2), of Portland, answered five minutes later on a Hannah Rotwein penalty kick, the result of an inadvertent hand ball against Rose Alvarez.
When regulation ended in a 1-1 deadlock, it called for two, 10-minute overtime periods.
As Raniele sized up her corner kick eight minutes into the first extra period, she knew full well what was at stake.
"When I was down there, I was thinking, 'I need to score off this,'" said the midfielder, "because I've scored off corner kicks before. I just wanted to make it a good one. I was thinking, 'This is it.'
"I bend it in, and usually if it doesn't go in the goal, it goes right near the goal."
That happened to be where Moore and a hoard of other players were stationed.
The kick set a mass of bodies in motion, but it was midfielder Moore who was in the right place at the right time.
"It was perfect timing, perfect placement, perfect kick," she said. "It was just all perfect by Rachel. I just got a touch on it."
Ronai-Durning smothered the ball, and there was a moment of uncertainty until the side referee signaled the score.
The tally didn't immediately register with Moore.
"It didn't actually hit me until Emily (Alvarez) turned to me and screamed," she said. "Then I screamed, and then I fell."
That the game went to overtime surprised no one.
Catlin Gabel defeated the Crusaders for the state title in 2010, and they've met three times since, two of the matches ending in ties. One was in the game this season.
Crusaders coach Dave Potter makes it a point to schedule the Eagles every year.
"You know you're going to play many of the best players in the state and a program with more history of winning, I think, than even Jesuit," said Potter, referring to a top 6A Portland school.
Indeed, Catlin Gabel captured 12 state titles in a 13-year span that ended in 2004.
"We have great respect for each other," said Potter. "It's the healthiest competition I think I've ever seen in high school sports in soccer."
In their preseason matchup to start the season, neither team scored. St. Mary's narrowly missed a late goal when a shot caromed off the goal frame, and Potter deemed it a good thing. A victory then, he reasoned, would have motivated the Eagles should the two meet in the playoffs.
"We knew this game would be a close one," said Raniele. "It was kind of like a grudge match between the two of us."
Coach Lisa Unsworth of Catlin Gabel expected beforehand that it would be a 1-0 game "for somebody ... I couldn't decide who."
With the lead in hand for the rest of overtime, St. Mary's played conservatively, but not to a fault. It maintained enough offensive pressure that the Eagles rarely threatened again.
In the first half, Elmore's score came from directly in front of the goal after she had worked her way from outside the 18-yard box. She created an angle and powered home a shot that Ronai-Durning had no chance to stop.
St. Mary's is without an overpowering forward for the first time under Potter, said the coach. Elmore isn't far from that status, however.
"She's a natural striker," he said. "Give her the ball and let her do her thing. Stay out of her way. That's my philosophy."
In Tuesday's semifinal, the Crusaders will face another familiar foe.
OES and St. Mary's have met in the semifinals the past two seasons, the Crusaders losing 5-1 last year and winning 4-0 in 2010.
Two of Catlin Gabel's losses this year were to Oregon Episcopal, both by 2-0 scores.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org