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VANCOUVER — Mark Morris’ girls soccer team, state-bound for the first time since 2008, is teeming with confidence. Most emblematic of that is goalkeeper Aunika Rodman.

The senior made 12 saves, including several on hard liners, in Thursday night’s Southwest 2A District Championship at Chieftain Stadium. Despite her best efforts, the Monarchs still fell 3-0 to Columbia River.

“She’s learned so much this year on how to defend that deep ball, how to defend those shots from distance. She’s really come a long ways,” said Mark Morris coach Eric Maxey, a goalkeeper himself. “It’s amazing to see the development of that kid over the last two years. I love seeing that in a goalkeeper.”

There’s good reason for Rodman and the Monarchs (12-6-1) to have high hopes entering Tuesday’s state game against North Kitsap or Sequim. They’ve proven to themselves the past week that they can play with anyone.

MM topped Black Hills 5-0 and beat Hockinson 2-0 on their way to Thursday’s title bout with the two-time defending district champs. They’ve been playing great soccer for the better part of the past month.

Now, it’s time to break another skid: The Monarchs haven’t won a state game since 1988. Maxey’s 31-year-old daughter was just 1 at the time.

“We’ve been playing good soccer for a really long time,” Maxey said. “It’s unbelievable how these girls have come along. Their confidence, they’re starting to believe in who they are, and develop who they are. It’s just so fun to be a part of.”

So while things didn’t go the Monarchs way Thursday night, as the Chieftains quickly broke a scoreless halftime deadlock and rolled to the victory, Mark Morris is looking at the positives.

The defense played really solid in the first half, as Presley McClung denied several River counter attacks. All three of the Chieftains’ goals came via “scrums in the box,” as Maxey put it. And the Monarchs’ leading goalscorer Heaven Burr was out with illness.

“We just couldn’t clear a ball,” Maxey said. “And this team, if you give them more than one look at the goal, they’re going to make you pay.”

Maxey was pleased with Olivia Bollinger and Chloe Harris’ play in generating some semblance of an attack with Burr missing. The Monarchs generated just one shot on goal, though, and after a few strong counter attacks in the first half, struggled to consistently pressure the Chieftains.

It led to a long night on defense, as Reggie Griffith, Shalece Easley and Ava Greer all eventually found a way to beat Rodman.

Still, the district championship was a place few — even some within the club — expected Mark Morris to be just a couple weeks ago. And the Monarchs’ take plenty of pride in getting to the game in the first place.

“No I didn’t at all,” Rodman said. “Being here was an amazing surprise.”

Maxey added: “Expect it? No. Surprised by it? No.”

Mark Morris will open the Class 2A State Tournament on the road Tuesday, against either Sequim or North Kitsap.

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Sports Editor

Joshua is the sports editor for The Daily News. He joined the staff in January 2016 after working at The Bellingham Herald. He is a Western Washington University graduate and native of the Puget Sound region.

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