Gladstone will still be a powerhouse in 4A girls soccer

by: JOHN DENNY - Gladstone team co-captains Kelsey Hathaway (left) and Mikaela Simac say they expect Gladstone to still be playing soccer on Nov. 16, the date of the Class 4A state final.Gladstone High School’s girls soccer team has some big shoes to fill, with the loss of three first-team all-conference players — Amber Jensen (forward), Madi Cronin (midfield) and Taylor Plunkett (defense) — to graduation.

The trio were a part of a senior class that won three state titles in their four years, never losing a game in league (going 40-0-2 in league over four years), and going 16-1-1 last year, outscoring their 18 opponents 72-3 en route to winning the 2012 state Class 4A crown.

They’ll likely miss Jensen’s offensive firepower the most. Jensen, a two-time state “player of the year,” scored 101 goals and made 52 assists during her four years of varsity play at Gladstone, both school records.

Still, even with the loss of Jensen, Cronin and Plunkett, the Gladiators could be tough to beat this fall. Gladstone returns 12 varsity letter winners from last year’s team, including eight players who saw starting action on varsity. In addition, last year’s Gladstone jayvee team went undefeated on the season.

“I feel like people perceive us as underdogs, because we lost such great players,” said Gladstone junior defender Mikaela Simac. “But I think we’ll prove people wrong, with how much skill we still have on the team, and how we work together.”

“If these girls continue to grow and improve over the season as much as they have in the last three weeks (of practice), and if we have no serious injuries, I think we can have a very successful season,” said Gladstone coach Steve Thomas. “And I like our chances if we get in the (state) tournament. When our kids get to playoffs, they are tough to beat. Over the last four years we’ve either won state or made the semis and in those four years of playoffs we’ve given up just one playoff goal. We’ve got our goalkeeper Molly Webster back, plus Mikaela Simac and Julia Schumaker, who have played defense the last two years.”

Thomas added, “We won’t be the high scoring team that we’ve been, scoring six or seven goals a game. We’ll be more of a patient, possession team. And we do have goal scorers.... I wouldn’t be surprised if we get goals from at least 10 kids this year.”

“Our goals are, first of all, to win league,” said Gladstone senior midfielder Kelsey Hathaway. “And we’re all aspiring to [the state final at] Liberty High School on Nov. 16.”

“I definitely think we have the capability [to make the state final],” said Simac.

Hathaway explained why Gladstone has continued successful despite the graduation of key players year after year: “We put in the work. Everyone is dedicated. Everyone on the soccer team is an athlete; we’re competitors and we’re driven to be successful. Three-hour practices, and they start the day after school is out. A lot of hard work. But it’s worth it.”

Players returning with starting experience to this year’s Gladiator varsity roster include: seniors Hathaway (midfield), Julia Schumaker (defense) and Kendall Schumaker (defense); and juniors Simac (defense), Molly Webster (goalie), Tianna Smith (defense), Riley Webster (midfield) and Chelsea Entrambasaguas (midfield).

Hathaway was a Tri-Valley Conference first-team all-star last fall. Simac, Molly Webster and Riley Webster made the conference’s second all-star unit. Kendall Schumaker and Julia Schumaker received honorable mention in the league all-star balloting.

Hathaway was Gladstone’s second leading scorer last season, with 17 goals and nine assists.

Rounding out this year’s Gladstone varsity roster are: seniors Cheyenne Stubblefield (forward), Rosa Magana (midfield) and Megan White (forward); juniors Talia Pena (defense) and Hannah Kent (forward); sophomores Allie Seymour (midfield), Madi Stirling (goalkeeper) and Jessica Petersen (defense); and freshman Rielee Jaekel (midfield).

Thomas singled out two players new to the varsity roster who will likely do a lot to bolster the Gladiators’ prospects this year and in the future: Stirling and Jaekel.

“Madi was our jayvee keeper last year and I’ve never seen a keeper improve as much as she has in a year,” Thomas said. “She was a third-string keeper and now she’s challenging Molly (Webster) for the starting role. In 16 years at Gladstone I’ve never had the luxury of having two outstanding keepers, and now I do.”

The Gladiator soccer boss said of Jaekel: “She’s a club ODP (Olympic Development Player) player. She plays soccer the year around and she’s an excellent passer. She reads the game like a junior or senior, and she’s not afraid to get physical. I think she has a very good chance of beating Amber Jensen’s assist record by the time she graduates.”

Thomas shared his anticipated starting lineup for the Gladiators’ Sept. 10 season-opening game at Seaside: Kent and White in the forward line; Riley Webster, Hathaway, Entrambasaguas and Jaekel in the midfield; Pena, Kendall Schumaker, Julia Schumaker and Simac on defense; and Molly Webster in-goal.

The Gladiators host Scappoose Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Junction City Saturday at 2 p.m., and they have a makeup game at Stayton next Monday.

Thomas said he believes that Scappoose and Seaside will likely prove themselves among the top Class 4A teams in the state this fall.

Tri-Valley Conference play begins Thursday, Sept. 19, when the Gladiators entertain Molalla.

“I think it will be Gladstone, Molalla and La Salle fighting for the top three spots in league, just like it’s been for the past five or six years,” said Thomas.

Molalla lost to Gladstone 3-0 in the quarterfinals last year. La Salle lost to Scappoose in overtime in last year’s quarterfinals.

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