Girls Soccer Wrap Up: Cleveland Turns Heads With Upset Wins

Cleveland’s girls soccer team had momentum on their side in almost every game of the 2022 season, as they consistently secured great results against top teams.

The Warriors played a very difficult non-league schedule, which at first looked daunting when they lost their opener 8-0 to eventual one seed Jesuit, but proved to be valuable as they went on to gain confidence against top teams. Cleveland would end up beating two teams that were otherwise undefeated against non-league opponents, with a 1-0 win over South Salem and a 2-0 win over Lakeridge. Every team they played in the preseason went on to make the playoffs, and they finished with a 3-3-2 record, only losing to the top two ranked teams in the state.

The Warriors returned 11 players, including six seniors from their 2021 team, and that experienced underclass talent from last season stepping up into bigger roles was key to their success. Junior Elsie Koehler and sophomore Lola Pierce provided pace and aggression for Cleveland’s offense through the midfield, juniors Jaidyn Richter, Lucy Weinberg, and Evangeline Miller made up a very successful two-way defense, running a great counterattack and, paired with sophomore keeper Lloy Bartolotti, held their opponents to one goal or less in 13 out of 17 games. The team learned their roles very quickly, and carried those lessons through the entire season.

The momentum from their non-league success was especially important, as Cleveland faced No. 8 Grant and No. 11 Lincoln to open their PIL schedule. “We’ve been playing at a good level in our most recent games, so I think we need to keep up the focus and intensity,” said Elsie Koehler, looking ahead to the opener against Lincoln. The Warriors would increase their intensity even more, with the 4-2 win being their highest scoring game or the season to that point.

Cleveland would split those opening games, losing 2-0 to Grant, but their PIL title hopes were still intact. Cleveland won their last three games in a top-heavy league, and needed just Lincoln to lose or tie one game and Grant to lose or tie two. In the end the three teams would split the PIL title, with identical 5-1 records, and Cleveland would finish ninth in the state overall.

The battle-tested Warriors were matched with No. 25 South Eugene in the first round, a very one dimensional team that happened to share the same biggest strength as Cleveland – defense.

The game went exactly how that matchup would suggest, with the lone goal in a 1-0 Warriors win being scored by Lola Pierce with 10 minutes left. Shutting down late set pieces in their territory advanced Cleveland to a second round matchup against No. 8 Lakeridge.

This was easily the closest game of Cleveland’s season, while still managing to be one of the most eventful. Cleveland’s offense of maintaining possession and passing until enough space opened up for an individual run or a long shot matched up well with Lakeridge’s gameplan of putting 50/50 balls behind the Warriors defense for their attackers to track down.

With 12:51 to play in a match where neither team had pulled ahead in possession, scoring chances, or set piece opportunities, Jaidyn Richter gave the Warriors a lead. Richter recovered a Lakeridge clearance in her own territory, advanced the ball to Elsie Koehler who quickly returned it, and from 30 yards out caught the Lakers’ goalie off balance with a shot that had already split two defenders. Out of nowhere Lakeridge was fighting for their season.

Cleveland would shut the door, and advance to an historic upset opportunity against undefeated one seed Jesuit who had outscored opponents 62-4. Cleveland showed some slight weaknesses in the Crusaders, solving their offense for a couple long stretches and opening both halves with multiple threatening scoring chances, but would ultimately fall 3-0 in a one-sided game. Jesuit went on to win the state championship, boosting that goal differential to 67-4.

The Warriors went through a rebuilding 2021 season, and came back into contention quicker than predicted going into this year. They still had a mostly young team, and with so many players stepping into bigger roles they were very unpredictable. From start to finish Cleveland played to their potential and won memorable games over some teams they were not supposed to beat.

Cleveland’s graduating class is made up of Millie Bamer, Katie Smith, Jo Ritter-West, Isabella Brown, Rosemary Costa, and Ellie Einstein. They all helped the team go from 31st in the state in 2021 to ninth in 2022 and helped provide Cleveland with a 2023 roster that looks even better. The Warriors will look to improve on this season with a doubled graduating class and another great junior class.