Girls Soccer Team Makes Memorable Playoff Push


2021 Cleveland girls soccer team picture

In 2021, the Cleveland girls varsity soccer team overcame a poor non-league record to make the state playoffs.

In an unforgettable experience for both graduating seniors and returning players, the team had to wait in suspense to find out their playoff seeding at the end of the season.

The Warriors played a very difficult non-league schedule, facing four eventual top ten teams in eight matches.

Their first win came in match six, when they shutout the eventual 35th-ranked David Douglas Scots 3-0.

In this breakout win, Cleveland showcased some encouraging finishing talent, with long range goals from junior Isabella Brown, and senior Alyssa Robinson. Senior Beth Bergholm also added to the lead when she caught the David Douglas defenders off guard with her speed, and found plenty of space to place the ball in the right side of the net.

This win put the Warriors in good form, as they tied #27 Barlow 1-1 the next week, and held #6 Oregon City to just one goal in a hard fought loss to round out non-league play.

A 1-6-1 non-league record was far from ideal for Cleveland, but not all of these were complete routs, and lessons could be learned from competitive losses against #22 Westview (2-1), #10 Tualatin (2-0), and the previously mentioned #6 Oregon City.

Senior Sofia Hall saw some of the team’s strengths which carried them throughout the season. “Definitely we all were super supportive and kind to each other. I don’t think anyone was rude or mean to each other at all,” she said.

Hall also felt that Cleveland’s coaching staff helped promote that approach, saying, “I think they’ve been really supportive of our team bonding, and they helped us maintain our team Instagram account, which was funny.”

Sophomore Elsie Koehler also mentioned the same positive energy around the team. “Anytime I got to be with the team was always a good time,” she said.

Players and coaches alike understood the value of high morale, and better results towards the end of their non-league schedule showed that this group got better the more they played together.

Ending that stretch so much stronger than it started had the team in good spirits as they looked towards a PIL opener against the eventual champion Grant Generals.

Cleveland still looked outmatched against the top teams in Oregon, losing 3-0, but this left just one top ten team remaining on their schedule, so the Warriors still had a chance to set themselves up for the playoffs.

The playoff push started with Cleveland finally on the other side of a blowout, beating Franklin 5-0. It didn’t matter that the win came over the 49th seed, scoring a season high five goals was exactly what the Warriors needed to regain the strength they had in the back half of their non-league schedule.

Lola Pierce, one of three freshmen on the varsity team, showed off the skills that landed her on the roster when she opened the scoring. Pierce sped past a well-positioned defender on the left wing and one touch later used the outside of her right foot to put the ball off the opposite post and in for one of the most exciting goals of the year.

As the match went on Cleveland made some great passing plays in the box, and set up dangerous chances on set pieces, which showed a level of confidence that hadn’t been reached up to this point.

Junior Millie Bamer had a great match, finishing a deflected pass on the second goal, and setting up Alyssa Robinson for the third with a smart volley off a free kick.

Cleveland carried momentum into another dominant win against #38 McDaniel by a score of 3-1.

Confident long range strikes from Elsie Koehler and Lola Pierce secured this match for Cleveland, with both making shots from over 25 yards out look easy. Pierce also added an insurance goal on a penalty kick that completely froze the Mountain Lions keeper.

Unfortunately, after that Cleveland ran into the red hot Lincoln Cardinals, who had outscored their opponents 15-1 in their first three PIL matches, and would go on to enter the playoffs as the 9 seed.

A crushing 8-1 loss ended the Warriors’ first win streak of the season, to the point where it does not warrant the same level of breakdown, because not much could be learned from it besides reinforcing the fact that the Warriors would need an underdog mentality to make any kind of playoff run.

Thankfully, Cleveland bounced back under pressure, beating the 43rd-ranked Roosevelt Roughriders 3-1. The highlight of this match was one of the nicest goals scored by the Warriors this season, when Elsie Koehler received a pass 45 yards from the goal. Koehler drew a defender to her and took a few small steps to her right before losing the defender with a cutback to her left, carrying the ball ten yards forward, and making a decisive strike that caught the Roughriders keeper off guard.

The whole season led up to a high pressure senior night game against #15 Ida B Wells. This game celebrated the contributions of Caroline Burchard, Claire Denning, Beth Bergholm, Alyssa Robinson, Sofia Hall, Elsie Chin, and Pearl Shetterly to the Warriors.

Sophomore Elsie Koehler spoke about how that graduating class helped her throughout this season. “They taught me how to use my voice more and speak up for myself,” said Koehler.

Cleveland would end up losing this game 1-0, which would have been a decent result at any other point in the season, but at this point opened them up to a lot of stress as their seeding was determined.

Cleveland would sneak into the playoffs with the 31 seed and looked ahead at a tough matchup against #2 Lake Oswego, who had beaten the Warriors 3-0 earlier in the season.

Cleveland ended up being eliminated by a score of 4-2, but they did take an early lead and hung right with the second best team in Oregon, forcing them to take their first round match very seriously.

Koehler, who scored in the game, said of the feeling, “I remember being shocked and not really knowing what had just happened, mainly because we were not predicted to do well in that game.”

Hall also mentioned the feeling of being an underdog. “My favorite memory was probably the playoff game we were in, because we ended up being ahead at the beginning, which was insane because we weren’t predicted to do well,” she said.

One more highlight of the season came after that playoff game, when the PIL all-league list was released. Caroline Burchard and coach Doug DIller earned the highest honors, with Burchard making the first team and DIller earning coach of the year. The second team included Alyssa Robinson, Lola Pierce, and Millie Bamer.

“It’s really cool to see that we all worked together and all helped each other get there, and it’s really nice to see teammates succeed,” said Hall.

The Warriors have a lot to look forward to next season, with 16 returning players on top of those making the step up from JV. This class includes Bamer, who took on a leadership role this season as a junior; Pierce, who again made all league as a freshman; and Koehler, who scored in some high pressure situations.

Koehler spoke about her and the team’s goals next season, saying, “My goal is to score more goals, and hopefully earn an all league honor,” and “our goals are just to win more games and finish more of our scoring opportunities.”

The Warriors made memories this year, and gained more playoff experience than most teams can in a first round exit. Whether they’re graduating, or looking toward higher expectations next season, there’s a lot to remember about this one.