The time is now for The Dalles’ girls soccer team.
With Oscar Nunez and Jesus Granados as the coaches, the Lady Riverhawks could be a team that can make some noise in the 5A state soccer landscape.
“I look at this team and realize there are players who want to win games and play hard for each other,” Nunez said. “We know what we are capable of if we stay focused on our goals and stay united. It is a long season and it is early, but we are getting everyone on the same page, so we can make a run at league and the playoffs.”
TD had four all-league winners in a three-win season in 2017.
Last fall, TD posted better numbers across the board, improving on wins by one, adding 16 goals scored over last year’s 8, and the defense surrendered 22 goals, a sharp decline from 48 last season.
With those numbers, the Riverhawks received eight all-Intermountain Conference awards, including first-team bids by Addie Klindt (goalie), Ari Andrade (defense) and Courtney Hert (midfield).
On the second squad were Molly Taylor (defense), Jenna Miller (defense), Vivian Harrah (midfielder) and Jordyn Hattenhauer (midfield), and senior midfielder Victoria Barragan was an honorable mention pick.
Of those players, only Hert and Harrah are back with the varsity group.
On a defensive unit that surrendered 22 goals in 15 matches and held opponents to two or fewer goals in 11 games with three shutouts, the defenders holding the key to success are Lily Eby, Marisa Rojas, Quetza Juarez, Iliana Moreno, Alexus Munsen and Madison Eby.
Taking over for Klindt, the Goalkeeper of the Year, will be Munsen and first-year player Kierstin White.
“I think our defense will be pretty good this year. We have the talent and the communication skills to stop other teams from scoring,” Lily Eby said. “I think it all starts from the back-end with the defense. We need to do a good job of marking up on players, getting loose balls and creating scoring chances with our passes to our midfielders.”
During the year, TD started 0-4, but then went 4-1-1 in the middle of the season, before wrapping up the regular season at 0-3-2 for a 4-8-3 record to snag third place in the Intermountain Conference.
There are players such as Allie Clack, MaKenna Wilcox, Zara Voodre, Hert, Kendall Webber, Alexia Otero, Hanani Andrade, Samantha Esiquio, Emily Adams, Harrah and Brenda Chavez who can add to the 16 goals scored last season.
“We have players that can get past defenders to start our offense,” Esiquio said. “I think we can definitely score more goals and play better than what we did last year. It’s my first year on varsity and I am a senior, so I want to play well to help my team out.”
Hood River and defending league champion Ridgeview are considered the league favorites, and as with any program, graduations opened the door for teams to sneak into first or second place.
“We do have a young team, but we have a really big group that has experience with club ball, so we have a lot of girls who have spent so many minutes on the field against good competition,” Nunez added. “So, we will be young in some areas, but I think we can put the right pieces in place to get this team competing for the playoffs.”
The Dalles hosts Putnam at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, and then travels to Wilsonville for a tough match at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17.