Senior Lauren Birr and junior Emily Vandehey lead four Banks players selected to the all-league squad

At the end of another solid season for the Banks girls soccer squad, a total of four players were named to the Cowapa League all-star team.

Lauren Birr and Emily Vandehey were named to the first team, while Lauren Hill and Rachel Nikolaus received honorable mention status.

Scappoose sophomore Lucy Davidson was selected as the league player of the year, while Astoria’s Katie Russell and Jerry Boisvert were chosen as goalkeeper and coach of the year, respectively.

That Banks quartet led the Braves to a 5-5-4 overall record, a 3-3-4 mark in league play and a Class 4A play-in game. Notably, of Banks’ five losses, one was to Class 3A state champion Valley Catholic, while two others came in league play to eventual 4A state champ Scappoose.

Those latter two defeats contributed to a conference record that left Banks in fourth place and just two points behind Astoria for the third and final league berth into the postseason. But the Braves slid into the Class 4A play-in round for a second consecutive year — and for just the second time ever — thanks to their No. 21 ranking.

Once there, also for the second year in a row, Banks lost 1-0 at Klamath Union to close out its season.

Birr, a senior defender, capped her high school career with her fourth all-league honor. Playing as a center back, she provided a calm, veteran presence in front of goalkeeper Holly Dotson.

“She’s a great decision-maker. She always has been,” Reed said. “And she’s so super-athletic that her natural skills just kind of take over. She’s one of those kids — just crazy amounts of talent.”

Vandehey provided some goal-scoring punch out of her central midfield and forward positions. The junior contributed eight goals and six assists to the team’s offense. Reed cited her as the team’s top player this fall.

“Her commitment, her drive and playing (on her club team with some top players) has really helped her a lot,” Reed noted. “We play against most of them throughout the year. A lot of them are from Scappoose and Valley Catholic, (Oregon Episcopal School) and schools like that, and it really has upped Emily’s competition level and just raised the bar all the way around for her. She’s really made huge strides.”

Nikolaus, a sophomore defender, repeated as an honorable mention selection this season. She led the squad in minutes played and Reed described her as the team’s top one-on-one defender.

“She wasn’t the fastest girl. I had somebody else mark the fast girls,” Reed said. “But one-versus-one, she just did such a fantastic job all year, and she was such a hard worker during games. She was a pretty clear choice for me.”

Though Hill, the Braves’ pint-sized freshman, plays defender for her club team, Reed put her up top this fall to help the team out on offense. She led the squad with nine or 10 goals before breaking her ankle in the second half of the play-in game against the Pelicans.

Reed said that Hill was a little hesitant to try the position during the team’s summer league, but she was all-in after putting a ball in the back of the net.

“There was no looking back,” Reed said. “Part of the way through the season, I was thinking of putting her back at stopper, and she’s like, ‘No.’ She goes, ‘No, I want to play up here.’ In some ways she’s the most determined human being you’ll ever meet.”

With Vandehey, Nikolaus and Hill eligible to return — as well as some other key players — next season could extend Banks’ recent success. But the path will not get any easier.

Many of the players on Scappoose’s squad were sophomores this year, and next year Valley Catholic joins the league, meaning that the Braves will get regular competition against two reigning state champions.

Reed, for one, is looking forward to it.

“I think it’s a good thing that they’re coming into our league,” Reed said about the Valiants joining the Cowapa. “I think it will raise the bar and make our league stronger, and that helps all of the teams.”

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