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Playmaking midfielder is back in the fold after a year away playing club soccer

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior Katie Duong is back and ready to help the Crusaders go after a 6A state title.

Dropping a dynamo like Katie Duong into a girls soccer team with national prestige and Division One players all over the pitch is like putting a rocket engine into a Bugatti — it's almost unfair.

Duong, a senior on the Jesuit girls soccer team, stepped away from the Crusaders last year to focus her club team that played in the Developmental Academy last fall. The training and time commitment made it nearly impossible to juggle both high school and club soccer during the same season. Yet, Duong is back with Jesuit, returning to a team that just won the Class 6A state championship a year ago and is reloaded with young stars.

Duong said she kept close tabs on her Jesuit teammates during her one-year hiatus, keeping track of their pulverizing of the 6A field en route to beating archenemy Sunset in the state title. The tug to return back to the Crusader program that's both congenial and conducive to competition pulled at the University of Minnesota commit, who's back to playing for both her club team and Jesuit.

"I came back because I really missed my teammates," Duong said. "It's been awesome coming back, just the atmosphere of high school, having the crowd come out. We have a super talented team and we've been getting great results. Winning a state championship is our ultimate goal. But we still have a lot of hard work to do and have to keep pushing ourselves."

Already a state champion herself after winning one as a freshman, Duong said she was happy for her close friends, but disappointed she couldn't join in on the state title festivities as a junior. Now she's after her second state crown with a shot at helping the Crusaders go back-to-back.

"It was kind of bittersweet because I was sad I couldn't be a part of it," Duong said. "I was still really close to the team and it was awesome to see the success they had last year."

Her positive effect as a hybrid midfielder/attack forward has been felt from day one of training. Duong dished out two assists to freshman Naomi Alvarez against Aloha on Oct. 4 at Aloha High School as the short-handed No. 1 Crusaders came away with a 3-0 win to run their record to 11-0 overall and 3-0 in Metro.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior Ella Nelson and the Crusaders hope to win their second straight state title.

Aloha took drastic measures to try and slow down Jesuit's incredibly prolific offensive attack by dropping nine, even 10 players back on defense. The field was drum-tight and crammed with bodies, but Duong was still able to find small gaps in the Warrior mass and threat passes through and around Aloha.

Without Duong, Jesuit is still the prohibitive favorite to win the 6A state. The talent level at Jesuit just doesn't drop off from year-to-year. Even with the loss of studs like Sophia Braun, Emma Treasure and Sydney Collins, the Crusaders come back with state title hero Callan Harrington, Alvarez, Jaiden and Madison McClellan, Ella Nelson and goalies Mary Votava. According to head coach Steve Fennah, Harrington will be a scoring threat and in the midfield while Duong and Jaiden McClellan will provide the creativity. Both Votava and Olivia Juarez will provide excellent goalkeeping. Junior Rachel Hickey will lead the defense.

But with Duong back on the field as the best maestro in Metro as possibly all of Oregon, Jesuit has a different dimension, especially offensively.

Her passing ability puts her a cut above the competition. Duong sees the field in a distinct way and can dissect an opponent with seeing-eye passes that hit the feet of her open teammates and put them in optimal positions to put balls away in the back of the net. She's a player every great goal scorer wants on their side because Duong will do everything in her power to set them up.

Jesuit has been on a true tear this year, allowing just one goal while scoring a jaw-dropping 72 scores themselves. To put that number in perspective, the second-highest scoring team in the state is Canby with 48 goals. The Crusaders lost six seniors from last season but haven't slowed down a single step. Jesuit has scored five or more games in nine of their 11 contests and has three more matches to go before the postseason begins. The defending Metro champs finish the year off with Westview, Southridge and Sunset.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior Kari Zimmerman is ready to help the Crusaders go after a 6A state title.

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