Girls have numbers, but will be tested in tough league soccer

Sean C. Morgan

The Husky girls soccer team returns a small core of starters to the girls soccer team this year, with a large group of returning juniors, who will face an uphill battle this year in the Oregon West Conference.

Returning starters are seniors Mo Curtis and Torree Hawken, juniors Esther Ramsey and Natalie Rodgers and sophomore Madison Harris.

They are joined by returning senior varsity players Ashtyn Walker, who played her freshman and junior years, and Hannah Powell in her second year.

The other returning juniors are Sicily Neuschwander and JV swing players Emily Farthing, Kailey James, Katie Robeck, Maren Weld, Crystal Wolf and Olivia Martineau. New to the team is junior Alaina Curtis.

Returning sophomore swing players include Chloe Fairchild, Olivia Olsen and Jenna Wolthuis. Returning from last year’s JV team and swinging this year are Karolina Hernandez, Andra Gordon and Isabel Sayer. New sophomores are Jada Dennull and Abagayle Pedersen. Some of the sophomores will start out the year swinging between JV and varsity before going full time to varsity.

The team has three freshmen, Ruth Barten, Iris Erickson and Rylie Hooley, who will start out on JV, Coach Ramiro Santana said he anticipates additional freshmen once school starts.

The JV squad will initially include Gordon, Sayer, Olsen, Pedersen, Hooley, Alaina Curtis, Erickson, Barten and Dennull, with Martineau and Wolthuis initially swinging.

Mo Curtis and Hawken are the team’s strongest players, Santana said, and they’ll serve as team captains.

Around the field, Santana said, Hawken, Harris and Rodgers will play forward. Harris and Rodgers are both left kickers who can also play at mid, and Hawken is among the fastest soccer players in the state.

Santana can move Harris or Rodgers to midfield, depending on the game situation and put Weld up front.

Ramsey “will be our strongest defender,” Santana said. “But we can still put her center midfield.”

As a junior, Powell learned quite a bit and will be a strong defender, Santana said. She also brings a bit of speed. Rounding out the defense will be James and Wolf.

All of that is subject to change, Santana said.

“It all depends on how we match the other team.”

Sometimes, the Huskies may need speed to match an opposing forward, and he’ll move Hawken to defense, for example.

Mo Curtis will be in the goal, Santana said. She’ll play some defense at times, with Rodgers filling in at keeper.

Santana said Robeck also wants to spend time in the goal, and depending on game situations, she’ll play there.

Robeck is tall, with a great left kick, Santana said. She has a lot of knowledge and is very good with the ball. Typically she’ll play midfield.

The league, the best in the state, is tough again this year, Santana said.

Stayton and Philomath both made the quarterfinals last year, while Woodburn was eliminated first round by the eventual finalist Valley Catholic, which is ranked No. 1 going into the season.

Philomath is ranked sixth, in a tie with Gladstone, while Stayton is ninth and Woodburn 11th.

All of the teams in the league, also including Newport, Cascade and Sisters, have club programs for their players, Santana said. That makes them tougher, but it also pushes Sweet Home and its coach.

“Everybody’s got to get better at it,” Santana said. “We’ve got to get more to be competitive. There’s nobody weak here. They’re all good. At this point, we are the weakest link in the whole league.”

But the Huskies will give the other teams a hard time.

“They’re going to have to sweat to beat us,” Santana said. “They’ll have to work.”

In pre-season polls last year, Sweet Home was last and not expected to win a game, Santana said, but they picked up a tie and a win.

“This year we’ll probably be set up on the field better,” Santana said. “We’re be more aggressive. We want to play mostly offense. We’ve just got to not give up.

“Everybody knows where we stand. We just have to be aggressive, We’ve got to match players, play one-to-one. We’ve got to set up our game and go for what we have. We cannot play their game. That’s how we get beat.

“It’s going to be hard for us, but we are in this league and we’re going to compete.”

Santana is excited to see a junior high program, he said, and he was able to work with his team during the summer.

He said he’s looking forward to working with players who already know how to kick. In the past, he has had to work with a lot of girls at different levels, some who’ve never kicked the ball before.

“I hope it does well,” Ssantana said. “We can talk and have a little more conversation about how to work together to get things going.”

Pete Saveskie, a sixth-grade teacher at Hawthorne, is the team’s new JV coach this year.

Santana urged the community to come and watch his team play, to support and energize the Huskies.

“It’s a great group that we have there,” he said.