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After two seasons as Tri-Valley runners-up, Rangers midfielders are leading the charge for a title

COURTESY PHOTO: ESTACADA BOYS SOCCER - After repeated second-place finishes in the Tri-Valley Conference, Rangers boys soccer are hungry for gold. Estacada boys soccer has been knocking on the door for two seasons in a row, and are ready to take the next step and claim a Tri-Valley Conference title.

Last season they finished second in conference, with an 8-4-4 overall record — the second time they finished silver.

"It is not lost on us that two teams from our conference who we have been competitive with over the last two seasons (both) made the state semifinals last season," said Coach Jack Carroll. "We expect to be competitive in every game."

All eyes will be on a talented group of Rangers midfielders, led by senior Ben Haefs. The first-team all-league center midfielder notched 10 goals and nine assists last season, plus a penchant for winning 50-50 balls.

"He is the leader and engine of the team," Carroll said.

Junior Josh Pallesen will be slotted as the defensive midfielder for the Rangers, moving up from his role as center back last year in a campaign that saw him secure second-team all-league with one goal and two assists. The move fits Pallesen's career with Estacada — as he was a striker his freshman season. Leaves one wondering if the talented player will tend the net next year.

"(Josh) has great character and work rate, and is extremely coachable," Carroll said.

Finally there is sophomore Irvin Hernandez, who earned an honorable mention nod last season with three goals and one assist. The youngster has been a key part of Estacada's attack since he joined the program, with precise skill on the ball and a powerful shot.

"He is very selfless and will do what it takes to help the team," Carroll said.

This year Rangers fans can expect to more easily watch the team, as the program finally upgraded a pitch long-reviled for flooding and sloppy conditions. Last season Estacada boys soccer had to play all of its home games in Oregon City. But with a new turf field, they are looking forward to playing under the home lights.

And this team wants to shake off how last season ended. After winning the play-in game 3-1 over Newport/Eddyville Charter, Estacada fell short against eventual-champions Philomath.

"We still have the taste of 5-0 in our mouths when we got eliminated from the playoffs," Carroll said. "We are not looking for 'revenge,' but rather to show ourselves that we are better than that result indicated."

They will get their chance soon enough. The Rangers will travel to Philomath Thursday, Sept. 15, for the final non-league game of the season.

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