By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

SALEM—After getting into the playoffs based on its power ranking the past two seasons, McNary wants to earn its spot this year with a top four finish in the conference.

The Lady Celts went a long way to getting there Tuesday, defeating South Salem 2-1.

“We knew that this was a pivotal conference matchup and there was a lot on the line,” McNary head coach AJ Nash said.

The Lady Celts came to South Salem on a seven-game losing streak, scoring just one goal in September.

“We’ve been playing good ball,” Nash said. “We’ve been in the games up until the final whistle on all of them. Even though it was a rough spell, morale was good.”

McNary had also played its toughest schedule in years, which got the Lady Celts ready for league play.

“Coming into the night, this is as prepared as I’ve ever felt,” Nash said. “Even though they were losses, we played the teams intentionally for a playoff run and now we have to do the work in conference to get ready for the playoffs.”

McNary scored quickly at South Salem as Abbie Hawley headed in a free kick from Gina Munguia in the third minute.

“Before the game we were actually practicing our set pieces about where she (Munguia) had the ball,” Hawley said. “I just gave her that look and she sent it right to my head. It was really awesome just because it was so early in the game and I think having that adrenaline in the beginning pushed us into getting this win tonight.”

Hawley assisted McNary’s second goal, tapping the ball to Audrey Williams, who put it in the corner of the net to give the Lady Celts a 2-0 lead with 15 minutes remaining in the first half.

“Abbie had a great ball,” Williams said. “I felt like that was a great opportunity so I just went for it. I couldn’t have gotten that goal without Abbie.”

South Salem scored its only goal with 4:45 remaining in the first half.

But goalkeeper Sydney Snapp and the McNary defense shut out the Saxons in the second half.

“It opened our eyes a little bit,” Hawley said of breaking the losing streak. “We were kind of down on ourselves with that really big dry spell and so I think it’s going to help us push ourselves in practice and then get us ready for McKay on Friday.”

The Lady Celts are 1-2 in the Mountain Valley Conference after opening with one-goal losses to West Salem and Summit, both 3-0 in league play.

McNary hosts McKay (0-3) on Friday at 4 p.m.