The Newberg High School girls soccer team hopes to make strides and improvements after a difficult stretch of seasons when it often struggled to compete with some of the top schools in its conference. Under new head coach Scott Diefenbaugh, a culture change is underway.
"It's been good. It's been encouraging to see returning players from years past coming in, ready to compete and taking steps forward in their development," Diefenbaugh said. "Last year was crazy, and it's been great to see their focus level after that. We've got some young players coming into the program that we've been waiting on, and we've been impressed with them as well.
"I've been with the program for three years, and going into this year we've just been trying to change how we play and the culture around the team. It looks like we'll be starting where we left off in terms of taking steps forward. What we're seeing in training is really encouraging so far, and we're excited to play some games."
The Tigers return multiple experienced starters, particularly along the back line, and bring in a significant swath of talented underclasswomen. There are multiple freshmen who will play key roles on this year's squad, Diefenbaugh said.
Right now, however, the team is focused on development.
"For us, it's more of a tactical understanding and a maturity thing that we've been working on," he said. "We're working it, playing more possession and less direct, so we can have the ball more and create more opportunities to score. With the players we have on this team, we are hoping to be more dynamic and creative and a lot more fun to watch."
Diefenbaugh played college soccer at George Fox University, who won the national championship for Christian colleges in 1988. His coaching career has spanned the youth level all the way up through college, and he's previously coached the boys team at Newberg prior to serving as an assistant on the girls team.
Newberg opens its season Wednesday, Sept. 1, at David Douglas, and its first home game is Sept. 7 against McNary. Its nonleague schedule features some of the state's top teams, and an Oct. 6 game at Sherwood will be crucial in conference play.
Diefenbaugh said he hopes the program's ascent continues this season as it emerges from a challenging pandemic-shortened campaign in 2020.
"My philosophy is we continue to build from within and not necessarily worry about who our opponent is," he said. "We have good preseason competition and a lot of opportunities to play some quality programs, and our conference has some teams that are traditionally tough for us. But my feeling is that if we continue to grow, we will show them something and be able to compete."
For more information on the NHS girls soccer team, including roster, schedule and specific game times, visit www.OSAA.org or www.NewbergTigers.org.
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