WARRENTON - A tie against a 2007 state semifinalist?

"We'll take it," was Jim Flint's message to his players, following a 1-1 standoff between La Salle and the Astoria girls soccer team Thursday afternoon at the Lower Columbia field.

Given some inexperience on the field and maybe a letdown or two from his team, the Astoria coach was indeed well-pleased with the outcome of the game, even though it didn't go into the win column.

"I felt really positive," Flint said. "(La Salle) is really a quality side. They went to the state semifinals last year ... we've lost 1-nil to them in three previous years. This year we got on the board first."

And if there was any doubt about Astoria having the best goalkeeper in the state at the 4A level, those doubts were erased with every save Astoria's Bug Coggins made during Thursday's contest.

"The key today was the fact that Bug had a wonderful game in goal," Flint said of his goalkeeper, who was voted the state's Most Outstanding Keeper last year. "Most of her saves were pretty routine saves. She read the run of the play, she knew where to position herself, and she was there when she needed to be.

"The coach for La Salle said (Coggins) was definitely the player of the game, and I think anybody who watched this game would admit that. If Bug keeps us in the game, we can play."

Which Astoria did, as they seemed to surprise the Falcons, who lost to Marist 2-0 in last year's state semifinals.

The Fish nearly scored on their first shot of the game, as speedy freshman Katie Leino outran two La Salle defenders for the ball, but her straight-on shot was wide left in the 13th minute.

Six minutes later the Fishermen had another big opportunity, and this time, Melissa Law hammered it home for a 1-0 lead.

On a free kick from 30 yards out, Astoria's Sarah Pope dropped the ball in the penalty box area, where Law pushed it past La Salle keeper Camille Schmitt.

"It was a great service by Sarah, and a heads up finish by Mel," Flint said. "Very patient, very composed. That put us up 20 minutes into the game, and gave us a sense that we could actually play in this game. The first seven or eight minutes we were on our heels, and expected (La Salle) to attack and push the pressure really heavily."

The Falcons outshot Astoria in the first half, 9-2, but it wasn't until their final attempt of the half that they were able to get one past Coggins.

La Salle senior Brittney Elsensohn delivered a ball up the middle, where forward Laura Schmitt gathered it in and bounced it past Coggins for the tying goal with just one minute remaining in the half.

The Falcons had another 10 shots on goal and five corner kicks in the second half, but they could not push anything past Astoria's brick wall goalkeeper.

Coggins stopped a pair of one-on-one breakaway attempts by Schmitt, whose last attempt on goal came from inside 10 yards, right in front of the net.

Coggins got a hand on the ball to deflect it wide right, then made the save on another shot by Elsensohn. Astoria's backline of defense, including Eleni Duret, Charlene Harber and Megan Parker, made life tough on the Falcons, who were unable to mount any solid attacks in the second half.

Astoria's only legitimate shot on goal in the final 40 minutes came on another free kick from Pope, which Camille Schmitt caught for the save.

The Fishermen still felt good about their performance - it's only a matter of time before the victories come.

"For us to have a good year, the luck has to be in the form of staying healthy," Flint said. "That's the real key. If we stay healthy, we can play with anybody in the state. La Salle is going to be every bit as tough as Valley Catholic, OES (Oregon Episcopal School) and Catlin Gabel.

"That's the quality of play that we have to elevate ourselves to if we're going to be competitive," he added. "That's why I like playing a very challenging schedule. The only way to get better is to play better competition."

Astoria will see more competition Saturday, when the Fishermen host Philomath (4 p.m.), followed by the Astoria boys vs. Philomath.

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