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PREP SOCCER: Trojans do it again; Wilson girls upset West Albany to reach 5A semifinals

The Cinderella team of the girls soccer playoffs hopes it doesn't turn midnight when it plays in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The Wilson Trojans already have had a remarkable run. Ranked 22nd in Class 5A, the Trojans are in the final four as they prepare to face No. 3 Wilsonville on the Wolves' artificial turf.

Wilson played there on Sept. 19, losing a preseason match 3-1. The Wolves are 11-1-0 since, losing only 1-0 to Putnam, which lost in Saturday's quarterfinals 4-0 at No. 1 Summit.

Wilson is 7-6-3 with six wins in a row, the latest a 3-1 upset at seventh-ranked West Albany in another Saturday quarterfinal.

That came four days after Wilson stunned No. 2 Sherwood 2-1 at Sherwood.

Wilson coach Michele Potestio says Wilsonville figures to be her team's biggest challenge yet "because now everybody's looking at us. Before, we would just go play and have fun."

The Trojans still intend to play and have fun.

"There's no expectations," Potestio says. "Sometimes that's better. You're just out there playing the game because you love playing the game."

Wilsonville was ranked No. 1 earlier this season.

"They have some really good, quick players who we didn't handle well, and it's their home field," Potestio says, "so we know it's going to be a battle. We just have to go in thinking about playing our best game, and if we do that, maybe good things will happen."

Wilson had to win a play-in game at Hood River Valley just to get into the official 5A playoffs. The Trojans did that by beating HRV 3-1 on Nov. 1.

That came after closing PIL 5A wins over Benson, 7-0, and Madison, 9-0. Top PIL teams sometimes find it hard to switch to the level necessary in state playoff competition after having relatively easy games against the lower-echelon teams in their own league. Potestio says that hasn't been a major problem for the Trojans.

"Every league has that balance; I don't think the PIL is unique in having strong teams and weak teams," she says. "For us, or for anybody, it's about approaching everything the right way and not getting too worried about wins or losses in the preseason or setting up those games as markers. You just go out and play and find out who you are as a team."

The Trojans have found out they're pretty good.

At West Albany, they got the go-ahead goal with about 14 1/2 minutes remaining and made it a 3-1 final with a score at the 30-second mark.

"We played a pretty good game from the start, played our game, stayed together and didn't get rattled," Potestio says.

Senior forward Kenna Meinhart opened the scoring about 22 minutes into the game, pouncing on a ball after a Wilson corner kick.

West Albany answered about three minutes later, thanks to a strong cross and finish.

"They sent a free kick to their target player, and it was at that difficult waist-high level, and it was hard to get it out," Potestio said. "We couldn't get it cleared."

Still, Potestio says she liked the way her team looked in the first half.

"We just needed to keep utilizing the space on the field and be attack-minded," she says.

Even on the road, the Trojans wanted to be, and were, the aggressors.

"You sit back, you lose opportunities," Potestio says. "You have to create your opportunities. That's what I've been talking to the girls about -- creating and pushing forward. We want the ball in their half."

Wilson was able to keep applying pressure in the second half, and the result was sophomore forward Jamie Kresl's game-winning goal off a cross by Meinhart after a long run down the wing.

"We didn't want to go into overtime; we'd done that (at Sherwood)," Potestio says. "I was trying to get my players to keep pushing for a (second goal) and find a way to make it happen, because I felt like we had a little more energy than West Albany and maybe a mental edge."

Sophomore midfielder Mara McLaughlin knocked in the Trojans' third goal off a corner kick.

"It was a well-played game by both teams," Potestio says.

It also was the fourth straight win with sophomore Nikki Hogan in goal. Hogan was called up to the varsity after freshman Jackie Hudson, the regular starting keeper, suffered a concussion Oct. 24 at Benson.

"Jackie got hit in the head with the ball during warmups," Potestio says. "A ball went off the crossbar behind her and whacked her in the back of the head."

On came Hogan, who had been playing on the junior varsity, although she had filled in for an ailing Hudson on Sept. 26, when the Trojans lost 5-4 at home to Hillsboro.

"Nikki is just doing an amazing job," Potestio says.