PHS soccer home team dugout
PHS soccer field (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Continuing with the preview theme of Monday’s blog on boys soccer, let’s shift our attention now to Oregon West Conference girls soccer.

Philomath, Woodburn and Stayton have been the class of the league for the past two seasons. Stayton took the conference title in 2018 and Philomath outlasted the other two for first place in 2019. These three schools have been involved in some very, very close games. In fact, Philomath has a record of 2-2-4 against the Eagles and Bulldogs combined since 2018.

Which school will have the edge in this upcoming abbreviated schedule? It’s hard to say so let’s dive in for a closer look.

Philomath lost a couple of pretty good players in Halle Hewitt and Madison Rogers to graduation but the Warriors return everyone else (I’m writing under the assumption that they’ll all be coming out for soccer and have remained in the school district). Alivia Pittman, Braedyn McNeely, Kaili Saathoff, Chloe Jurva, Mia Rust, Hailie Couture, Atira Fairbanks, K Bacho, Reese Grube — the list goes on and on for players that could be returning.

Philomath will not only be competing for another Oregon West title, but would be in contention for a state title. Unfortunately we may not see a state tournament under the limitations of the OSAA’s culmination week.

The Warriors took the league title in 2019 with a 9-0-3 record and entered the state playoffs as the No. 7 seed in Class 4A. After taking care of Henley, 1-0, in the first round, the Warriors dropped a 2-0 decision to Marist Catholic in the quarterfinals. Marist went on to the state title game where it lost to Woodburn, 1-0.

Woodburn finished runner-up in the Oregon West last season. The Bulldogs finished in 2-2 ties twice with Philomath but stumbled against Stayton to finish second behind the Warriors. But in the state playoffs, Woodburn rolled to four straight victories for the championship.

The Bulldogs, coached by Philomath alum Andrea Whiteman, lost a half-dozen seniors off its 2019 roster but just like the Warriors, plenty of talent appears to be returning. The list includes Yahaira Rodriguez, Myranda Marquez and Alyssa Padilla — all first-team all-conference picks last year.

Stayton had an 11-4-1 overall mark last year and in the conference, had one tie against Philomath and a victory over Woodburn. Four players graduated, including KJ Nyquist, the conference’s player of the year. Forward Maddie Pask appears to be the top returning player for the Eagles.

As for the rest of the conference, Sisters, Sweet Home, Cascade and Newport were all pretty much on even ground last season. Sisters was probably the best of that group, remaining competitive in the games that it lost to the top three.

For this coming season, I’d guess that Philomath and Woodburn will again battle it out for the top spot with Stayton behind in third. Among the bottom four teams, I’m inclined to go with Sweet Home in fourth with the other three fighting it out to stay out of last.

If the OSAA’s planned schedule remains intact, practice will start on Feb. 22 with games to follow the week of March 1.