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Foundation built as Madras head soccer coach Shawn Darrow is in his fourth year coaching.

STEELE HAUGEN - Seniors Jiana Smith-Francis and Kelsey Olivera, left, hustle during a passing drill at practice. 
They will both look to be leaders during the upcoming season.The Madras High School girls soccer team will have some big shoes to fill after last year's talented senior class graduated, but has very skilled varsity returners, eager, younger players trying to earn their worth and a dedicated, motivated coach.

"We are really young, so it is going to be a bit of a change from the last couple years as far as lots of seniors, and senior leadership," head coach Shawn Darrow said. "We have some girls that are good leaders and we have a solid foundation, but it is definitely going to be a change from what we had last year. We are bringing in some new girls and are trying to figure out what we have in some of these girls. Some have never played a full-field game in their lives. It is going to be interesting, but it is going to be fun trying to see what we have and continue to build for the future."

Head coach Shawn Darrow is heading into his fourth year with the Lady Buffs. Darrow led the team to back-to-back postseason appearances, which is very impressive considering 2017 was the Madras girls' first postseason appearance since 2003. He also won Tri-Valley Coach of the Year in 2017.

The 2017 squad lost to Yamhill-Carlton in penalty kicks in the postseason. Last year, 2018, the team traveled to Henley for a play-in game. The team started well, taking an early 1-0 lead, but lost the game 4-1.

"I think where we are going to hang our hats again is what we have done in the past, which is just being strong in the defensive half of the field, seeing if we can communicate from there," said Darrow. "We have some returning players that have been strong in the defense and midfield. That is going to be an important part and area where we need to be strong. Because our team is so new and there are so few returning varsity players, I don't know where to set our expectations yet, until we can really see what we look like on a full field.

"I want to try and be competitive with every team," he said. "We play in a really tough league, so if we can compete well and keep games close, that will be our measuring stick to start with and then we can see where to go from there."

STEELE HAUGEN - Junior Hannah Holiday kicks the ball during drills as head Madras coach Shawn Darrow intructs the players.Madras will have to learn how to play without four-year Tri-Valley first-team player Erika Olivera. Olivera was a big part of the recent program's success. They also lost second-team TVC player Jackie Zamora Heath, who led the team in goals last year with six.

"We have Jiana Smith-Francis returning, as well as Kelsey Olivera, who is going to be a four-year varsity starter," Darrow said. "Brooke Delamarter was one of our starters last year as a freshman. She is starting to find her voice, which is good. Same as Briseida, who is finding her voice, as well. She is one of our attacking threats and hopefully, she can find her voice a little more and really help lead as a senior. Those four are really going to be our leaders."

"We have some girls who have really been dedicated that are new to that game, but really working hard on their own game and getting other kids out," he said, specifically mentioning Hannah Holiday. "She is another one that is really good at getting everyone unified and pumped up. I am looking forward to seeing how much these girls use their voice and being leaders, trying to motivate the rest of the week."

Kelsey Olivera, Delamarter, Smith-Francis and Carlon all had key roles last season and will have even bigger roles this season, trying to rally the Lady Buffs early in the season. Smith-Francis earned honorable mention honors as a utility player last season.

"I think we will come together by practicing hard," Smith-Francis said. "It is almost like a rebuilding team because there is a ton of freshmen and not so many upperclassmen, so we are going to have to practice a lot. We all need to bond together, make sure we get along and that there are no conflicts. My goal for this team is just to do well in league, so we can make another playoff game."

Carlon was an explosive player last season, capable of scoring on any defense. Her speed and handling skills allowed her to emerge as a big threat for the Lady Buffs last year. She scored three goals in one half, during a 4-1 victory over Mazama, showing she was someone who had a knack for scoring.

"We did a lot of footwork during the offseason," Carlon said. "You could really see the difference from day one to the end of summer. We did some three-on-three and you could really tell how our footwork was affected in a good way. To be successful, we need to make sure everyone on the team is here every day and help them out at practice."

The Lady Buffs have their season opener at home against Sisters at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3. They also have a home game against 6A Mountain View at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10.

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