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Despite an earlier loss to Glencoe, the soccer squad is ready for the new season

COURTESY PHOTO: MICHELLE NETT - The St. Helens High girls soccer team is ready for the new season.St. Helens High School girls soccer is ready to kick off another season and head coach Angie Nichols is full of optimism.

The Lady Lions already have a couple of games under their belt and have home games this season against Seaside, LaSalle Prep, Parkrose, Hillsboro and Scappoose, although schedules can always be subject to last-minute change.

A recent game saw St. Helens fall to Glencoe, 4-1, but even so, Nichols liked the performance.

"They did a great job," she said. "We actually scored the first goal."

The game got away from the Lions in the second half, but Nichols said she was pleased by what she saw in the first half.

"The first half of that game, the girls played amazing — that was encouraging to see," Nichols said.

This year's squad has eight seniors, five freshmen, seven sophomores and three juniors.

"Having the eight seniors is definitely going to be a plus for us," Nichols said. "Most of them are pretty strong."

The Lions are led by captain Jezarel Ortiz, whom Nichols described as "amazing."

Nichols said, "It was a no-brainer picking her as captain, and it is already making a huge difference."

Nichols pointed out a couple of other standouts this soccer season.

"Gwen Daoust … has always been a strong player, even as a freshman," Nichols said.

Daoust is a senior this year.

"She's always done a great job on defense," Nichols added.

Nichols also mentioned Kylee Pedersen, a center back on the defensive side, and Isabelle Mercier.

"She was considering not playing this year, but then she changed her mind, thank goodness," Nichols said of Mercier. "She has excellent ball control skills. She has played as a striker in the past, but I've never liked her up there. Her skills are so solid that I put her back into midfield."

Nichols added, "I have to mention Hannah Hayduk. She is the fastest player. We've always had her as a striker, because of her speed. I also put her at the midfield because she has so much stamina; she also runs cross country."

As for competition this season, Nichols has Wilsonville circled.

"If we could eliminate any game, that would be the one, because I never liked playing them," she said of the Wildcats. "They have such a strong program. They are going to be, by far, the strongest, by a lot over the others."

Although she knows there will be tough competition ahead, Nichols has a positive outlook.

"I'm optimistic to see what they can do this year," Nichols said. "We have a lot of younger players who have a lot of potential. The challenge is going to be, for sure, the fact right now we have about 23 or 24 players, which is not quite enough for two teams, but a little too many for one."

Nichols added, "I believe in playing everybody, even if it's only for a few minutes. That's going to be the biggest challenge for me as a coach."

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