A quick strike represented the opening salvo in a dominant Elma district girls soccer performance on Tuesday.
Alicia Hook scored in the opening 90 seconds to ignite the Eagles to a 4-1 victory over Castle Rock in a District IV Class 1A quarterfinal at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
By surviving the loser-out quarterfinals, the Eagles (15-2) will enter the double-elimination phase of the tournament. They will face Trico League champion Woodland in a semifinal scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Kalama.
The semifinal winners will clinch state berths and clash for the district championship at 2 p.m. Saturday, also at Kalama. The losers will square off at noon Saturday in a winner-to-state, loser-out contest.
The Eagles were in command of Tuesday’s match virtually from the opening whistle. They used crisp passing to spend perhaps 90 percent of the contest in Castle Rock territory.
An inability to convert a high percentage of scoring chances was about their only failing, but Elma coach Chris Schumacher had few complaints.
“Turf can be a bit of a psych-out for a team that plays on natural grass,” Schumacher said of the synthetic surface at Stewart Field. “But my girls stepped it up. They played it hard and played it right.”
Elma’s defenders, according to Schumacher, played more of an attacking role in this contest than has been the norm.
Although the Eagles specialized in near-misses in the first 65 minutes, they did cash in on their first scoring chance.
Intercepting a pass deep in Castle Rock territory, Elma forward Brooke Goldsmith fed Hook, who went one-on-one against Rocket goalkeeper Megan Millward and tucked about a 12-yard shot into the lower right corner of the net.
Goldsmith, who used her speed to consistently beat the Rocket defense, sent a crossing pass in front of the goal in the 28th minute and Mackenzie Miller poked it home following a brief scramble.
With Goldsmith barely overshooting the net on several occasions and Millward making several fine saves, it remained 2-0 until the 68th minute.
Then Goldsmith, taking a pass from Sydney Smythe, launched a powerful left-footed shot from the left wing that glanced off Millward’s hands and into the upper left corner of the net.
Elma defender Natalie Grant, fouled outside the box six minutes later, lofted a free kick from near the right sideline that Smythe guided into the net from about 10 yards out.
After putting only one shot on-target in the first half, Castle Rock (10-7) picked up the offensive pace a bit after intermission. Elma goalkeeper Alyssa Sutherby made a diving save of Jaynie Snaza’s 15-yard shot in the 58th minute.
Castle Rock’s Mikayla Risner spoiled the shutout with less than three minutes remaining. Gaining a one-on-one break when an Eagle defender slipped and fell, she maneuvered around Sutherby and popped a close-range try into an open net.
Grant, who broke up a couple of promising Rocket runs, was cited by Schumacher for strong defensive play. Smythe, midfielder Hannah Heelan and defender Lexie Whipple also drew the Elma coach’s praise.