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After last year's state runner-up finish, Beavers girls soccer is ready for 2022.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Beaverton's Maya Alvarez battles a Grant defender during the Beavers' game against the Generals Tuesday, Sept. 6, at Delta Park in Portland.Last season, the Beaverton High School girls soccer team suffered a heartbreaking overtime defeat to Grant in the state championship game.

But before that, they finished 15-3-1, snapped Jesuit's 76-game win streak, and boasted six all-league and two all-state honorees.

Can the Beavers keep it up, and maybe even avenge their championship loss?

Gone are four of their all-leaguers from last year — and both of their all-state players, including Metro League Player of the Year Emily Rice.

Yet returning is Metro League and Oregon Coach of the Year Jennifer Kirwan, and she's confident in this year's group's ability to continue the momentum the 2021 team helped create.

"We've worked very hard at building this program into something that can build each year and get stronger," Kirwan said. "Last year, we were just a game away from a title, and we're looking forward to being one of the strongest teams not just in the Metro, but the state as well."

Last year's seniors — paced by Emily Rice and her sister Hannah, Lauren Ashe, Audrey Johnson, Macy Deckert and Meg Unruh — were all four-year starters for the Beavers, and the team was led by a consistent and strong attack.

This year's team, however — according to Kirwan — is led by the back line of Natalie Drotzmann, Danika Kime and Katelyn Sanders, along with senior attacker Roxanne Rundle.

Kirwan said one of the keys to those contributors, along with the team as a whole, is to embrace the expectations created by last year's success. She wants to see the Beavers play their game, not try to mimic the players of yesteryear.

"We have a lot of talent and potential, but I think a lot of what we need is the girls to realize they don't need to be the person that they came in for last year," the coach said. "They need to be themselves and then utilize their strengths to become the player they're going to be."

Over their first two games, the Beavers managed a 6-0 win over McMinnville and a 0-0 tie with Barlow.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, they again faced Grant, this time not for a state championship, but rather more as a test to see where they are and what they need to do in order to get where they hope to go. PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Beaverton's Roxanne Rundle during the Beavers' game against Grant Tuesday, Sept. 6, at Delta Park in Portland.The two teams played to a 0-0 first-half tie, but the Generals pulled away in the second half and cruised to a 3-0 win.

The loss comes at the expense of the Beavers' record, but Kirwan believes it will pay dividends in terms of the experience necessary to win games down the road.

"There's a lot we can learn from playing teams like that," Kirwan said before the game. "It will really give us an idea of what we're doing well and things we need to focus on going forward."

Along with their upperclassmen, the Beavers will lean on a youth movement that includes a handful of freshmen and sophomores that either start or play significant minutes off the bench. Beaverton's goalkeepers, sophomore Lauren Wilde and freshman Lyla Perry, are part of that youth movement that Kirwan said she's excited about seeing grow.

"We're very excited about some of the players we've brought up through the JV program," the coach said. "We have a lot of different ideas about how to use players going forward as they progress."

And it won't be easy. The Metro League always provides a deep well of challengers.

Jesuit is always among the top teams in Oregon. Mountainside has been impressive in recent years. Sunset and Southridge were both ranked in the OSAA's preseason 6A poll, too.

Kirwan acknowledged the always-difficult Metro League schedule, but she said it's the type of test she and her players are always up for.

"It makes it exciting," she said. "We have great teams in this league, and we play some great non-league teams as well. I think that's awesome, scary and fun all wrapped into one."

Kirwan is looking forward to the rest of the girls soccer season, whatever it brings.

"I'm excited every year to see what comes of the program," Kirwan said. "It's always going to be a growth process, and it's about adapting to new challenges with a new group of kids, but while it's challenging, it's also exciting to see where you are and where you can go."

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