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The Vikings made the state semifinals last season, but believe despite youth at key positions can be better this year.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove senior Sophia Broberg battles for a ball during the Vikings' game against Lincoln Thursday, Sept. 8, at Forest Grove High School.Last year's Forest Grove High School girls soccer team had a season to remember.

After finishing the regular season third in the Pacific Conference and qualifying for the state playoffs, the Vikings defeated West Salem, knocked off No. 1-seeded Jesuit, and defeated Sherwood before losing to Beaverton in the state semifinals.

This year, however, while it's a new team and a new season, head coach Ignacio Olvera believes the Vikes can be even better.

"I think last year's team is comparable to this year, and they're pretty equal teams," Olvera said. "We do have three freshmen starters (Dania Vivar, Hailee Grismore, Joy Long) and that could hurt us a little early, but technically, I think we're better."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove freshman forward Dania Vivar dribbles up the field during the Vikings' game against Lincoln Thursday, Sept. 8, at Forest Grove High School.That's yet to be determined, but after three shutout wins over North Medford, Ida B. Wells and Lincoln to start the year, Forest Grove is certainly off to a good start.

Gone is second-team all-state center back Makaila Takahashi, along with all-league midfielder Camilla Contreras Brand and defenseman Lily Everson. But returning are all-state selections junior Elise Broberg and senior Sophia Broberg, along with a slew of talented freshmen.

"My whole midfield is pretty much freshmen," Olvera said, "but they're doing pretty good."

Also returning is senior goalkeeper Aleena Calvert, who was an honorable mention all-leaguer last season and per Olvera "carried the team on her shoulders," and first-team all-league midfielder Joanna Long.

Long is taking the place of Takahashi — who is playing soccer for Pacific University this fall — at center back after playing most of last season at the holding midfielder position.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove junior Elise Broberg lets one fly from the midfield during the Vikings' game against Lincoln Thursday, Sept. 8, at Forest Grove High School.Stepping into that holding midfielder position is Long's sister Joy, one of the Vikings' three talented freshmen starters.

"We lost one of the best center backs in the state, but Joy (Long) is doing a phenomenal job on defense," Garcia said. "She wins the ball, distributes and gets everyone playing. She's a special player and is going to make some noise this year."

Olvera believes that the overall skill level and the team's willingness to compete are their strengths, in addition to the experience they gained playing deep into the playoffs last season.

But while the Vikings do have a wealth of talent, their overall bench depth from an experience standpoint is a bit lacking, and their physical strength in the midfield is in question, even if that question is based solely on their youth.

Team captains Elise and Sophia Broberg, along with Joanna Long and Jordyn Minor will be tasked with bringing that youth and experience together. Thus far, Olvera said they've been up to the challenge, and he's been pleased with what he's seen.

"I think the preseason is going to really prepare us this year," Garcia said. "It's very competitive, but so far, we've been up to the task. They're moving the ball well, and I think the speed of play is ahead of last year. The girls are playing good soccer."

The coach stopped well short of predicting a league or state championship, but he is confident in his team and feels good about their chances of competing with anyone in the league — and beyond.

"The Sherwood game will be really big for us, but if we can avoid injuries, we should be right up near the top," Olvera said. "The girls play beautiful soccer."

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