Goalkeeper Hailie Couture eyes the ball on a free kick by Marist's Cloe Chase. Couture dove to her right to make the save. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Preseason polls don’t mean a whole lot other than to provide some sort of indication about the expected strength of the top teams and how they might rank at the end of the season. Both Marist Catholic and Philomath were ranked high in a preseason coaches’ poll — the Spartans 2nd and the Warriors 6th — and they squared off Thursday afternoon.

Senior Sela Freeman scored a goal in the second minute off a corner kick from senior Paige Meador and then provided a through-ball to junior Cloe Chase who finished six minutes into the second half to give the visiting Marist squad a 2-0 victory.

The three players that had a hand in the Spartans’ scoring represent the team’s three captains. Marist had already played a game this season — a 2-0 win on Monday over 5A Churchill — while Philomath was taking the field for the first time.

“I feel like we held our own for the most part,” PHS girls soccer coach Mat Phelps said. “We faded, definitely, but it showed that we can compete with them.”

Marist had the upper hand on both ends with opportunities on offense and stops on defense.

Phelps said the biggest thing he learned about his players while watching them for the first time this season was their willingness to keep battling despite trailing on the scoreboard in unpleasant conditions.

Junior Kamilla Grimmer heads the ball toward a teammate. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“We still have a lot of stuff to figure out but we’re capable,” Phelps said. “We showed instances that we could attack together and that we could get good opportunities that we could defend but it wasn’t a complete effort.

“It was kinda patchy here and there,” he added. “I think that’s what the takeaway is.”

Philomath wasn’t at full strength in terms of roster availability and the heat took a toll on a few players that had to come out. The high temperature in Philomath hit 91 degrees between 3 and 5 p.m., which was right when the game was going on.

The game officials took advantage of an option they have to add water breaks at the 20-minute mark of each half to make sure everybody stays hydrated.

PHS senior Elizabeth Morales tries to get a foot on ball against Marist’s defense. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“The humidity was pretty rough … we usually have a good breeze here but not today,” Phelps said.

Goalkeeper Hailie Couture, a senior and one of three captains on the team, made several saves during the contest, including twice on free kicks in the second half.

“She kept out a couple — there were some scrambles in front of the net and so she came up big,” Phelps said. “It’s good to have that leadership back there and that kinda carries hopefully over to the rest of the field.”

Phelps sees the game’s outcome as a motivation for his players and not a reason to get down on themselves.

“They’ve got high aspirations and they want to win league and so I think that motivates us to keep working hard in practice and not get complacent because we’re not where we want to be yet,” he said.

Philomath (0-1) is scheduled to play Wednesday at Cottage Grove in what will be the Lions’ season opener.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.