Heslam sisters hope to spark Roosevelt girls soccer's playoff push
Soccer talent is heading north in Portland.
At least, that's what Roosevelt High School girls soccer coach Jaimie Facchini is hoping for and starting to see in a Roughriders program that has never made the postseason in the 44-year history of state soccer playoffs.
With one nonleague game left before Portland Interscholastic League play begins, Roosevelt is sitting at 3-3-1 and confident going into league.
And why wouldn't they be when they have sisters Finley and Ellie Heslam leading the way?
Finley, a senior who switched from left wing to left back this year, is heading to Gonzaga to play soccer while Ellie is a sophomore and already a PIL record holder in track and field after her freshman year.
Needless to say, the two bring plenty of talent. At least when they are getting along.
"We fight a little bit, but we have good chemistry," Ellie said. "When we're not fighting, it goes really well. She's really talented so it's really fun to have the opportunity to play with her."
As a whole, the Roughriders have a younger squad on the pitch with plenty of contributors being a junior or younger. For example, Roosevelt's lone goal in a 4-1 loss to Milwaukie on Thursday came on an assist from freshman Carolina Alonso to junior Camille Lawrence.
Not only that, Ellie moved to left back to fill in for Finley who is one of many Roughriders on the mend early on this season. Facchini noted she's had six girls with concussions this season from a string of unfortunate luck.
Still, the youngsters are picking it up and putting Roosevelt in a good spot through seven games.
"We only have about five returning players from last year, so we're pretty much working with almost a new squad," Facchini said. "It's been great working with the new talent. I think we're going to have a strong PIL season this year and I think it just shows how strong we're going to be next year."
The Roughriders are only going to get strong if and when Finley can return.
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Despite being the left back this season, the Roughriders attack often begins with the captain in the back either forcing a breakaway or speeding out to start a run.
"She's doing a really good job of holding our back line, working with Greta Jobs," Facchini said. "They kind of hold our back line and help direct our field. She's doing a really good job of distributing and setting up plays coming out of the back."
Finley, combined with fellow captain Hazel Levin at midfield, create an experienced tandem to make sure the Roughriders are able to move the ball down the field.
However, with Finley out, Ellie has shifted from the top line to the back to fill in for Finley. But it'd be hard to tell it wasn't her natural spot after stopping plenty of Milwaukie runs on Thursday night.
The speed from being a track star certainly correlates over to the pitch.
"She's an extremely talented player, has a lot going for and I think she's going to follow in her sister's footsteps," Facchini said.
Being just a sophomore and one of the youngsters herself, Ellie is firmly a part of the plan in building this Roughriders squad into the program's first-ever playoff team.
However, Ellie has seen the ups and downs that come with putting a new group of girls together.
"We really need to work on gelling together and focusing on the soccer aspect," Ellie said. "I feel like when we play as a team and we build community — that's what our coach Jaimie really tries to do is build community — I think we play great."
Facchini echoed that same goal and shared how it can be difficult when you have a group together for the first time to build that togetherness.
"I think I need to see them just settle down and play their game together," Facchini said. "If they can have consistency throughout our season, we'll get the results we want."
The Roughriders are in action again at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27 when they host Oregon City (4-0-1) to close out the nonleague schedule.
After that, the six league games to determine three automatic bids to the postseason begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29 at defending state champs Grant.
The road isn't going to be easy to make a little Roosevelt history, but with a strong mix of seniors and talented underclassmen, the Roughriders hope to keep bringing the eyes up north.
"I think when we play together, we've been doing a pretty good job," Ellie said. "It's Finley's senior season, we have a lot of seniors and we're just trying to maybe make it to the playoffs for the first time this year."
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