Girls soccer preview: Experience, added speed have girls aiming for state soccer berth

Sean C. Morgan

The Huskies return a number of experienced varsity players and will add a little to their up-front speed this season in girls soccer.

The program had 26 girls out last week, said Coach Ramiro Santana, and he expected some more to join. The program added just four freshmen, though.

Returning starters include seniors Kenzi Adams, Hannah Jewett, Chloe Newport and Kaylee Lewis, and juniors Hailey Nicholson at goalie, Kendyl Stutzman, Cora McKee and Milah Weld.

Returning swing players include senior Chelsea Nicholson, senior McKenzie Yoder, sophomore Ashley Farthing and sophomore Sydney Mauer.

“We do have a good group there,” Santana said. “They know what’s going on.”

They are joined by junior Bethany Gingerich, who will bring some much-needed speed to the team.

Junior Jessilyn Thomas also returns, but she is splitting her time with the cheer program this year, with plans to compete competitively in cheer in the winter season.

Also playing varsity this year will be sophomore Madelyn Neuschwander, sophomore Kendal Soland, junior Hannah Ramsey, freshman Torree Hawken and junior Elizabeth Chelstad.

Playing junior varsity soccer will be Jade Stiles, Rhiannon Stiles, Sydny Chase, Karah Lewis, Sidney Hooley, Rebekah Fassler, Hannah Ramsey, Torree Hawken, Hikari Kawai, Ashtyn Walker, Sarah Hewitt and Tori Jackson.

Santana is further along than typical with his lineup this season, with good ideas where he will play each of his athletes. He usually doesn’t quite have his varsity squad selected by this point.

“We have a lot of older girls that are returning,” Santana said, and they’re moving forward in their positions from last year.

Gingerich will join Weld and McKee up front. He’s also looking at using Hawken and her speed at forward.

Farthing is strong and aggressive with a good touch and knowledge, Santana said. He’ll run her in midfield.

Jewett and Stutzman will work in back on defense. Mauer is also strong on defense, and Ramsey, a newcomer, looks solid in defense.

Chelstad will work in midfield and defense.

The girls know their roles, Santana said. They’re looking good in the few scrimmages they’ve had so far, “and our passing is getting better.”

The freshmen and new players are getting the game down, he said.

The Sky-Em league will be “tough, like always,” Santana predicted. Sweet Home is hampered by lack of a club program or junior high soccer, while other teams in the league do have club programs. Junction City, Cottage Grove and Sisters are all strong, as a result. Sisters or Cottage Grove will be on top of the league, he said.

“Those teams are really the teams for us to beat,” Santana said.

If the Huskies can get some wins against those teams, they’ll be in the hunt for a playoff spot, Santana said. “We’re fighting for the middle of the table, which is Elmira, Sutherlin.”

The Huskies have some speed up front this year, but they don’t have it across the field. Fortunately, their defense, in a staggered formation, can address their opponents’ speed.

“One of our strengths would be a little bit on the defensive side,” Santana said. “We have strong girls that can play defense. I wish we had speed, but we don’t have any speed in the back.”

That means if they can’t stop a Cottage Grove forward, for example, there is no one between the forward and goalie, Santana said, and those forwards are track runners.

Gingerich would be a great addition in back, he said, but he needs her speed at forward, he said, so he has to set up that defense in steps, staggered, so when a forward makes it past a defender, another defender is in the way.

Up front, McKee also has speed, Santana said. Weld doesn’t have as much speed, but she has good soccer skills – a great kick and ball control. When Thomas is in a game, she brings speed, skills and control as well. Those three were responsible for most of the scoring last year.

“We want to compete against everybody,” Santana said. “We’re not going to sit back. We’re going to go back and try to score too.”

He thinks his team can be in the mix this year, he said. “Who knows, we might surprise these teams this year.”

He got a chance to see them in action Saturday at a jamboree in South Albany.

“The girls are very good,” Santana said. “We played very good, both teams.”

In 30-minute halves, the Huskies defeated Central 2-1. Bethany Gingerich scored the first goal. Central answered tying the game 1-1 by haltime.

With about 10 minutes left, “Cora (McKee) took a run past the defenders, took a shot an scored the goal,” Santana said.

The Huskies lost 2-0 to South in a game immediately following.

“We were all nervous,” Santana said. The team settled down and started moving the ball around, maintaining a lot of control in both games.

“I’m pretty happy,” he said.

The JV played 20-minute halves. The team lost to Central 2-0 and then tied South Albany 0-0.

Santana will be pulling double duty in some games, also coaching JV. Jeff Parker, his assistant coach last year, will fill in when he can. Parker took a job with School District maintenance after last soccer season.

Santana thanked his teams’s parents for their part in the program, he said. “This wouldn’t happen without parents. They’ve given me a great group of girls.”

He also thanks the community for its support for the program, in particular, O’Reilly’s, which provided a space for car wash fund-raisers. The girls have been able to get warm-up sweats for the first time this year as a result.