PUYALLUP — The drama dripped to the very end.    

For the fans, it’s exciting. For soccer coaches, it’s either elation or purely excruciating.

When junior Nora Melcher found the lower right corner of the net, the Camas Papermakers felt the elation of the school’s third state soccer title. On the flip side, the bitter pill was reserved Issaquah.

Melcher’s successful penalty kick in the fifth round of a 4-2 shootout gave Camas the victory over the Eagles on Saturday evening in the Class 4A state championship game at Sparks Stadium.

The offensive-minded Papermakers (22-0-0) completed a perfect season by the narrowest margin over defensively stout Issaquah (13-4-1), which held their own for 90 scoreless minutes.

“It’s extremely nerve-wracking,” said Camas third-year coach Keri Tomasetti, who was Roland Minder’s assistant for 12 years prior. “All you can do is hope for the best and ask your keeper to try to make at least one save (Keely Wieczorek) made two. So, you can’t ask for more than that.

“All season long I’ve been telling them they’ve been giving me more and more gray hairs, because they like to leave it to the last second to solidify it all. I guess this was just icing on the cake.”          

Advertising

In the shootout, Wieczorek, Camas’ junior goalkeeper, made a pair of diving saves on shots by the Eagles’ senior Jensyn Lins and junior Ruby May in the last two rounds of penalty kicks. Those saves gave Melcher the opportunity to seal the title and she did.

“I love the pressure,” said Wieczorek, who hadn’t been involved in a shootout since her freshman season in 2019 and faced more offensive pressure in the postseason than the rest of the season. “This team thrives under pressure. We have so much grit and we’ve shown that throughout the season. Tonight just came down to that grit and we had more of it.”

The pressure was squarely on Wieczorek’ shoulders entering shootout.

“You have to come in with confidence,” she said. “It’s all about the confidence and the mindset going into that.”

“We deserve that championship and we earned it, all season long.”

Issaquah qualified for a state championship match for the 12th time in school history. The Eagles had already brought home five state titles, winning Class 4A in 2015 and 2017 after taking home 3A crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

The 2021 squad was trying to give first-year head coach Jason Lichtenberger, a longtime Eagles assistant, his first state crown.

Advertising

“I think a lot of soccer coaches have a joke, and that’s soccer sucks sometimes,” said Lichtenberger, fresh off consoling many of his players. “That’s never a fun way to lose. We to one in the (state quarterfinals) and made it through. Those are 50-50 chances at that point, and we were on the wrong side of it. My girls battled hard.

“The second half they really brought it to us and we weathered the storm.”

Camas outshot Issaquah 17-3 in the second half and the two five-minute overtimes.

The only time Issaquah and Camas met in a state championship match was in 2005 with the Papermakers prevailing 2-0.

The Eagles lead the series in state-tournament matches 4-2 over Camas, but on Saturday the Papermakers had the last laugh despite playing in the Greater St. Helen’s League, a league that doesn’t have penalty-kick shootouts.

“We practice them, but it’s not the same in the Final Four as having them in (other) games,” Tomasetti said. “It’s so different. It’s just that whole different set of feelings and nerves. It’s a bigger arena and this is state and this is a big deal. So, you can never prepare.”

Note

  • Senior forward Hayden Crowley went out in style with a hat trick and an assist as Richland (21-1-0) posted the school’s best finish at state since taking second in 2005 with a 4-2 win over Skyline (16-5-0) in the third/fourth-place match.