Philomath High girls soccer Mat Phelps likes the way his roster shakes out heading into a new season. It didn’t seem that long ago — heck, it was just this past April — that the Warriors were battling for a championship in the 4A state tournament.
Philomath finished among the top four with a lineup that included league co-player of the year Alivia Pittman and fellow first-teamers Kaili Saathoff and Mia Rust — those same three players also earning all-state status. But all three were seniors with Pittman and Saathoff representing most of the goals that were scored last spring.
So with the losses to graduation — and there were other key players that moved on — why does Phelps have confidence in a lineup that will feature a lot of new faces?
“We’re young — we have 12 freshmen but that’s where we’re in a good place,” Phelps said. “We’ve got a decent nucleus but we’ve got a lot of young girls that we can continue teaching and building.”
The nucleus looks pretty good with senior defenders Ella Weickum, K Bacho and Reese Grube leading the way. Those three were chosen as the team captains.
“We graduated Mia, who was an all-state player, but we’ve got Reese and K and Ella, who are all very experienced in those positions and will bring continuity to our team there,” Phelps said. “And we’ll be throwing in some younger girls and see how that works.”
Junior Hailie Couture returns at goalkeeper to give the Warriors more solid experience on the defensive end.
“She was good for us in our challenging games and didn’t get a lot of work in some of our other games so I think it’s hard for coaches to see how good she is, but I think she’s one of the top goalies around in the league,” Phelps said about Couture, a third-year starter.
More familiar faces will be back in the midfield.
“We’ve got a couple of returners in Bailey Bell and Elizabeth Morales that played substantial time last year,” Phelps said. “For some of the other girls, there’s just lots of opportunity. We’ve kind of had to have some competition and say it’s open — there’s a lot of goals out there to be scored.”
Sophomore forward Kamilla Grimmer has impressed in the preseason with the coach saying that she “is one who’s really working hard and has an opportunity to do some stuff up there.”
The roster as currently published shows 19 players — 10 of those freshmen. However, Phelps believes that when everybody’s out, the number will be up to 22.
One big positive this month has been the return to a normalized schedule with soccer season at the appropriate time of year.
Said Phelps, “It was a short offseason for us but being able to have some daily doubles and training camp — we were able to run our kids’ camp this year — it feels like it’s a season. It’s good.”
Philomath opens the season on Tuesday at home against North Marion, the team that defeated the Warriors on penalty kicks in last spring’s 4A semifinals and went on to win the state title. The Warriors will then not see action for several days until a Sept. 9 trip to Gladstone, another formidable foe. Philomath beat the Gladiators by one goal in last season’s 4A quarterfinals.
“It’s tough as usual, there’s not an easy game in our nonleague and we just have the two,” Phelps said.
In the Oregon West, the coach expects Woodburn to be really strong with good numbers along with Stayton and upstart Sisters. Woodburn is ranked No. 3 in the OSAAtoday coaches preseason poll with Philomath at No. 5. Nonconference opponents North Marion and Gladstone are ranked as well at No. 4 and No. 7, respectively.
Loren Rogers will serve as an assistant coach in the program this season. Phelps said longtime assistant Becca Davis stepped down to focus on her family. Rogers was a senior on the first PHS squad that Phelps coached.
The Warriors will not play a full junior varsity schedule with too few athletes in the program.
“We’re trying to squeeze in a couple of JV games where we can just to focus on those girls,” Phelps said. “We’ll just have to do a little bit of juggling.”
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