Annie Whitlatch’s goal was the only offense Lebanon High needed in Thursday’s Mid-Willamette Conference girls soccer match.
The Warriors senior found the back of the net in the 31st minute, putting her side in front for good on South Albany’s senior night. Lebanon’s defense and keeper Ana Von Ruden did the rest to seal a 1-0 victory in frigid, windy conditions at Rebel Stadium.
“I’m just proud of the girls for battling through,” Lebanon coach Ryan Christner said. “We were tired and we didn’t play well, and I told the girls that there are going to be games where your touch is off. (South) was first to every ball tonight and when we should’ve been taking one or two touches, we were taking four or five and it just caused us all sorts of problems.
“But on the road, senior night against your rival, it’s always going to be a tough game no matter what the records are. Now we just have to get ready for (Crescent Valley) and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Warriors (7-5, 4-2 MWC), who are guaranteed to finish no worse than .500 this year, close MWC play Tuesday against visiting CV (11-0-1). The Raiders have already clinched the conference’s No. 1 seed.
Thursday’s victory guarantees Lebanon a home match in the 5A state play-in round. But the Warriors are eager to get a shot at CV first.
“We are super excited for that,” Christner said. “It’s a great way to finish off the season to have CV come to our place and see where we need to be at.”
Lebanon controlled the majority of the opening half and grabbed a 1-0 lead on Whitlatch’s goal.
The Rebels (2-8-1, 1-4-1) showed more aggression after the break, mounting multiple attacks as the visitors held on.
“I think we definitely struggled in the first half but in the second half it’s like the girls woke up and came to play,” South coach Staci Rogers said. “They definitely dominated that second half and I think the outcome could’ve been different if they’d played like that from the start.”
Christner said the wind impacted Lebanon’s passing, which is typically much crisper. The Warriors were also playing their first match on artificial turf since Sept. 12.
“Really all we needed was a draw tonight to secure a home play-in game,” he said. “They didn’t really have any clean strikes, everything was from distance, and Von Ruden is going to save everything from distance.”
The Rebels wrap up their regular season Tuesday at Dallas (0-10, 0-5).
South honored eight seniors before the match including Taylor Marshall, who has missed the last few weeks with a knee injury. Marshall was among the starting 11 and subbed out after kickoff.
“She had been a starter her whole career so we wanted to make sure she at least got to be on the field,” Rogers said. “When she came off, I think she was a little teary-eyed.”
South also recognized seniors Jasmine Alejandre, Grace DeVyldere, Jennifer Robinson, Taylar Spurgeon, Karina Villegas, Bari Walters and Emileigh Wuerst prior to the match.