Saturday’s State 1B/2B Girls Soccer: Pirates Snag Third Place in Farewell Game
C2BL Showdown: Cierra Swenson Scores Late Goal to Give Adna 1-0 Edge Over Onalaska
By Jordan Nailon
SUMNER — Sixty-two minutes into the final game of the year here at Sunset Stadium on Saturday the Adna Pirates wound up holding their collective breath. Not only were Pirates stuck in a scoreless tie with Onalaska in order to determine third place in the 1B/2B girls soccer state tournament, but their best player was coming off the field after banging her head off the goalpost.
Moments earlier Payton Aselton had come as close as anyone to knocking in a score before she and Onalaska goalie Alex Cleveland-Barrera collided deep in the keeper box.
“I went straight into the post,” explained Aselton after the game. “Honestly, I don’t even know how it happened. She just kind of clipped me a little bit but it was accidental. Then all that was left was me and the post.”
After spending about 10 minutes strolling the sidelines and nursing a headache, though, Aselton was able to return to the field just in time to watch her team take the lead on a topshelf shot from Cierra Swenson in the 76th minute. That score gave Adna all the cushion they would need as they claimed a bronze finish at the state tournament one more time.
“In the end she mustered enough to come back on the field and be there for her team. But everybody stepped up when she went out of the game,” noted Adna coach, and Payton’s mom, Juli Aselton. “Brynn Arrington on defense stepped up, I mean everybody filled in that hole and you can’t ask for more than that.”
The first 75 minutes were a deadlocked stalemate between the two Central 2B League teams and stood as a testament to their uncommon familiarity with each other. While Adna was able to put up a few shots early on, Onalaska’s goalie cleaned them all up with ease. Meanwhile, Adna goalie Makaela Meister was more or less left to entertain herself for most of the game as the Pirates defense stifled one Logger run after another
“(Meister) always wants to come out on the field. She’s always like, ‘I think I can come out!’ And I have to tell her, ‘I don’t know about that!’” joked Payton Aselton of her fellow senior captain, longtime friend and teammate.
After her final game at the helm of Adna soccer, Coach Aselton said Onalaska put up such a fierce fight that she never found a moment to laugh until the final whistle blew.
“It was all that we expected it to be. We figured this day would come down to whoever had just a little bit more energy at the end of the game and we finally managed to sneak one past their keeper who has had a fantastic season,” said Coach Aselton.
Onalaska coach Christopher VanClifford echoed that sentiment as he carried a bag of balls and the school’s first state soccer trophy off the field.
“It was a fantastic year. We’re excited to be playing on the last day of the season. That was a really cool experience,” said VanClifford. “Playing Adna, that’s the fourth time we’ve played each other this year. The girls all knew what was going on, it was just a matter of who was going to score first.”
While his team wound up being the first to flinch in the season’s penultimate contest for each squad, VanClifford was still beaming with praise for his goalie’s near-perfect performance.
“Alex is a huge reason we are where we’re at. I think everyone on this team thinks she’s our MVP,” VanClifford said.
After attaining the program’s first District title and first trip to the Final Four this season, the Loggers’ coach said he is hopeful that the momentum will carry over to next year.
“When you have a breakthrough year with a bunch of firsts, it kind of sets the stage for next year. Last year was our first just getting to state and we weren’t quite ready for what happened when we got there. This year we were totally ready for it. I feel like we were ready for this weekend even though we’d never been here before but a bunch of first times just gets us ready for next year,” said VanClifford.
As for Adna, this year marked their seventh consecutive trip to the state playoffs and the third place contest. Following a disappointing loss in Friday night’s semifinal affair, it seems the Pirates were able to lean on their previous experience in order to find an edge against Onalaska down the stretch.
“This morning they were sad because they weren’t in the game they wanted to be but they all talked about being there for each other and giving it their all. I said this is like a championship game for us. Onalaska beat us, and we beat them, and this will be a good game to show how we want to end this. Are we going to fall apart or are we going to stick together and play hard?” explained Coach Aselton.
With the final victory of her prep coaching career in hand along with another momento for the school trophy case, Aselton was thankful for the opportunity to exhale.
“It was an amazing relief. It is heartfelt. We’ve had a lot of tears. Joyful tears and sad tears this year just because everyone is so emotionally invested in this,” Coach Aselton explained. “I think our sportsmanship was pretty good today. Their sportsmanship was pretty good today. I think we just wanted to play good clean soccer and we did that. I think they’re leaving with a really good feeling.”