Mac-Hi's Makia Carlson, left, is tackled by Stayton's Cheyenne Kier in the Pioneers' match against Stayton Saturday.
MILTON-FREEWATER — McLoughlin High School scored early and held off the Stayton Eagles for a sweet 1-0 victory and a trip to the Class 4A state playoffs Saturday afternoon at Shockman Field.
Mac-Hi forward Veronica Garcia beat a Stayton defender on the dribble in the 26th minute and broke away to score on a nice shot in the left-hand side of the Eagle goal past Stayton keeper Kylee Stutzman.
Garcia injured her knee later in the first half, trying to score again, and had to leave the game. She was checked out at the hospital and her return for the next round of the playoffs is uncertain.
The win sends the Pioneers on to a state playoff game Tuesday in the round of 16, likely on the road with time and opponent to be determined.
“I’m proud of them,” Mac-Hi coach Martin Martinez said. “They did a good job. Coming back from a 2-0 loss earlier in the season to Stayton, we knew we were a better team than that. The mentality and attitude was the difference today and why we got the ‘W.’”
The Pioneers had plenty of opportunities to score again after Garcia left the game with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Pioneers fired nine shots, eight on-goal, in the second half.
Pioneer defender/midfielder Makia Carlson had six shots on the day, with five on goal. Midfielder/forward Harmonie Correa shot four times, with three shots landing on goal.
“We played them (Stayton) in the preseason,” Martinez said. “We went up there and lost. We knew how they were going to play. We weren’t worried. We did think about not being able to finish again, like we couldn’t up there at Stayton.”
With seven starting freshmen on the team — including goalkeeper Mallory Copeland — the group has improved throughout the season.
Copeland had three saves on the day and was a big part of the shutout. She also intercepted numerous cross passes and gathered up loose balls.
“As the season has gone by, Mallory — she is a freshman — she has matured a lot,” Martinez said. “All of the freshmen, when we played Stayton in the preseason, they weren’t used to playing varsity soccer. They got better, more mature, more confident and better with the ball.”
The Pioneers outshot the Eagles 19-13 in the game.
Only two Eagles were able to land shots on goal: Alexus Hemphill with two and Rhalina Gutierrez with one.
The Eagles ended the game with four yellow cards, one red card and the resulting ejection.