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FSP: Defending state champs 'want that feeling again'

The Scappoose girls soccer program is once again loaded with talent, and will gun for their second consecutive state title this fall


Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - The 2014 Scappoose Girls Soccer team has a big goal on defense - five exactly, and head coach Nicholas Heffernan think's it's a realistic one: Conceed five goals or less for the entire season.Late on the evening of Nov. 16, little more than nine months ago, Nicholas Heffernan stood in the dark hallway that runs underneath Falcon Stadium in Hillsboro, awaiting his chance to step out and lead the Lady Indians soccer team onto the championship pitch. Outside, the Sisters boys battled Henley on their way to a 1-0 victory.

“All the fans were singing to another group, I think it was a boys’ team playing, and we walked under the tunnel and I looked back and I saw everyone and they were just so buzzed,” Heffernan said.

80 minutes later, Scappoose students rushed the field, crowding around the team to celebrate: they’d won it, the first state title in program history.

It’s a memory that will last a lifetime. For the team and for Heffernan, the feeling has become a motivator.

“Natalie and Lucy will always talk about how they want that feeling again,” he said.

   And for the state of Oregon, that spells disaster.

Natalie Muth and Lucy Davidson, who committed to the prestigious University of Portland womens’ team during the offseason, return for their junior years and headline an Indian squad many believe to already be an onside favorite to repeat as champions.

But at the beginning of last season, they were hardly more than a whisper outside of preseason training and outside of the mind of Heffernan, just a few months into the position.

“As soon as I took over the program, I was just blown away by the talent,” Heffernan said. “I was just kinda tweaking, little fitness things, tweaking. They had the heart and desire to be here. Throughout the season, even with the rocky start we had with the losses, it was still a no brainer to me. If they worked and they wanted it, they would get it, and they did.”

With a championship under their belt, and on the heels of a season that saw the Indians win their final 14 matches, the tables have turned. Not only are they on everyone’s radar, but David and Goliath have switched places.

“I think now people are starting to take it seriously and starting to take these girls more seriously. Even before our semis and quarters, I heard from the girls on the other teams, they said ‘Oh, these are easy. We’ll beat them,’” said Heffernan. “And I use that. I love all that because it just motivates me, and it motivates the girls. They just know this year it’s gonna be even harder for them and they have to step it up. Going on by what I’ve seen in the last two days, geez, they’re flying.”

While Davidson and Muth are the All-Stars with the big college commitments, it’s can be hard to pick them out of a loaded front line the Indians will be throwing at opponents this season. Juniors Eleanor Jones, Madizon Verzino, and Lauren Frank, along with sophomore Amanda Orr, return with a vengeance to an offense that seemingly scored at will last season.

The Indians averaged five goals per game over the last 10 matches of the season, netting seven goals on two occasions, and scoring eight against Banks in an 8-1 beat down on Oct. 15. Their only three losses came during the preseason against Oregon Episcopal, Gladstone and La Salle, the last two they would eventually beat on their way to the state final against La Grande.

“I remind them all the time to remember that La Salle game, remember that Gladstone game. Even to me, it was just a weird experience because they didn’t play to their ability,” Heffernan said. “I remember their faces after it, and they’re like ‘Geez, what’s going on here?’ Yeah, we haven’t lost in – what is it, 14 straight? 12 straight? – But now we start again, and we’ve got a very hard preseason.”

The team kicks things off at Brookings-Harbor on Sept. 6, but things ramp up in a hurry: La Salle visits on Sept. 9, and the Indians will host Gladstone on Sept. 11 before traveling to Oregon Episcopal on Sept. 18.

That’s nasty for several reasons: Until last season, Oregon Episcopal had won two consecutive state titles, and Gladstone had won three of four. La Salle has made it to the state quarterfinals in the last two seasons, and they’re hungry for a change.

Oh, and the team to beat Oregon Episcopal last fall to claim the small-school state title? That’s Valley Catholic, and they’ll be playing in the Cowapa League this year.

“Having Valley Catholic now, oh my eyes lit up, because having such a tough team and to have them in our league is just great. I love that,” Heffernan said. “It makes for a better league, more competitive. And no disrespect to the other teams in our league, but I felt like Astoria and Seaside were the only other teams in our league that really challenged us. Now with Valley Catholic coming in, there’s a nice group of us to compete for those spots (in the playoffs.)”

Beating the Valiants, according to Heffernan, has become a big focus for the girls as preseason training has stretched on. And with just two varsity spots to fill and a host of motivated young players ready to step up from the JV level, Heffernan has his hands full. Some of last year’s varsity players might have to bite the bullet and play down, but Heffernan said that is the beauty of the system they play with: both squads are strong enough to allow flexibility depending on the week and depending on the match.

The team will continue to center around the talents of Davidson, who alongside Natalie Muth, drew high praise from Heffernan.

“They’re going to find it a little bit tougher this year because they’re going to have man markers,” he said. “You’d see it last year. Lucy would have four (defenders) in one game. Now, if I’m honest, they’ll put six on her because they’ve seen her and other teams have seen her because we went all the way to the state final. All the coaches have seen what she does.”

But will it make a difference?

“No,” said Heffernan with a laugh. “It’ll just make it even better.”

Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Tribe forward Eleanor Jones is surrounded at midfield to celebrate the 2013 state title at Liberty High School, a 3-1 win over La Grande. It's a feeling that the team has yet to forget, and something they use as motivation toward repeating as state champions.