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Phoenix rolls past Challengers

Pirates hand Cascade Christian first District 6 loss

The Phoenix girls soccer team did its part Thursday to try to maintain that status quo.

In a District 6 battle at Hagler-James Park, the Pirates celebrated senior day with a 4-1 victory over first-place Cascade Christian.

The Challengers (7-2-1 overall, 5-1 district), ranked No. 9 in the latest Class 3A top-10 poll despite being in only its second year, fell victim to Phoenix's best performance of the season, in Pirates coach John Doty's estimation.

Phoenix (5-6-1, 3-3 District 6) used two goals from senior captain Helen Shorland, a goal and an assist from sophomore forward/midfielder Kat Cox and three assists from sophomore forward Larrisa Wiltrout to give its postseason hopes a significant boost.

"The confidence level was way higher than it's been," said Doty, whose squad broke a three-game losing streak that had dropped it into a tie for fifth in the district. "We were just brimming with confidence."

Cox, normally a goalkeeper but pressed into field action after injuring her shoulder in mid-September, got the Pirates rolling with her fifth goal of the season in the 19th minute. Wiltrout, another of the nine Phoenix sophomores, assisted.

In the 30th minute, Shorland, playing center midfielder, chipped Cascade Christian junior goalkeeper Jennesa Collette to make it 2-0. Wiltrout set up the play by colliding with Collette in pursuit of a loose ball, jarring it back to Shorland, who was waiting near the top of the penalty box.

Early in the second half, Challengers junior forward Jessica Tresser narrowly missed the far post after chasing down a through ball.

That bullet dodged, the Pirates put the match out of reach minutes later, as Shorland collected a pass from Cox and fired a left-footed shot under a diving Collette.

Sophomore Kelly Riley, who plays a multitude of positions for Doty, completed Phoenix's scoring off another Wiltrout assist in the 69th minute.

Cascade Christian junior Victoria Cotta notched her eighth goal of district play in the 73rd minute, muscling in a Challengers corner kick that was flicked on by Tresser.

Cascade Christian coach Craig Warren said the Pirates simply out-fought his squad.

"They wanted it a lot more than we did," said Warren, as surprised as anybody with how quickly his program has ascended to the top of the district. "We weren't very aggressive, and they were."

Wiltrout, who now has four assists to accompany her five goals this fall, echoed Warren's assessment.

"I think it's the best we've played all season," she said. "We concentrated more on the game than ever before. ... We have a lot of confidence now."

Phoenix will need that newfound confidence to creep into the state playoffs. The Pirates have regular-season matches left at Mazama on Saturday and at Hidden Valley next Thursday, then a possible league playoff for the third District 6 spot to state.

Midfielder Debbie Kerlinger, one of five Phoenix seniors who went out in fine fashion in their last regular-season home matches Thursday, believes the Pirates can build on their performance against the Challengers.

"For the past couple games, we've been losing, and nobody's been able to figure out exactly what was going on," Kerlinger said.

"We knew all along we had it in us, Doty knew we had it in us and we just decided to prove to everybody, 'Hey, you know what? We can do it."

Cascade Christian goalkeeper Jennesa Collette, right, hops on the ball in front of Phoenix's Helen Shorland, left and Larrisa Wiltrout. Shorland had two goals for the Pirates, while Wiltrout contributed with three assists. - Photo by Andrew Mariman / Mail Tribune