Youth is being served for Tualatin girls soccer
Despite a successful 2021 that culminated with an OSAA state playoff berth and the return of key senior contributors, the Tualatin girls soccer team may be even better this season, due in part to an infusion of impressive young talent.
"We've never taken more than four freshmen on our team, and a bunch of years we've only taken one, but this year, we have six," Tualatin head coach Kale' Dwight said. "It's just incredible, and four of them are huge impact players."
In all, the Timberwolves (3-2) have 11 seniors, three juniors and two sophomores to go with their six talented freshmen. Already, three of those freshmen — Lexie Wilkie, Ava Elizarraraz, and Jamie Mitsuyoshi — have made significant contributions.
Dwight said that he and his staff are excited about the healthy mix of lower- and upperclassmen, but part of the challenge is making it all work together — something they've been working toward throughout the early part of the season.
"Against Ida B. Wells, we started four freshmen, and I've been honest with the girls that every non-league game, we're going to rotate the starting lineup," Dwight said. "We're going to see what we have and get people playing time to see what works best, and some of those freshmen are really pushing the seniors for starting spots."
It's not all about youth, however.
Dwight said the spine of the team is built around the Timberwolves' three senior captains: midfielders Avery Porter and Maya Loudd, along with defenseman Peyton Howard.
Porter scored half of Tualatin's goals from her center back position last season. While Dwight loves her overall potency, the coach said this season, he aims to relieve her of some of that responsibility. He plans to let Loudd — who's been moved to forward this year — do more of the heavy lifting on offense, allowing the senior defenseman to focus on her back-end duties.
"I love that Avery (Porter) scores, but I'd like to take that pressure off of her," Dwight said. "She's our defensive midfielder now and shouldn't have to have the responsibility of scoring half our goals. Plus, after moving Maya (Loudd) forward, she's been an absolute scoring machine."
And scoring has become more of a strength this season for the Timberwolves. Last year, the team scored just 18 goals in 15 games, but Tualatin has 13 so far this year through the first five games.
Dwight said Porter, Loudd and Howard are invaluable not only on the field, but off of it as well, where their leadership and consistency speak volumes to their teammates.
"They're just so dependable," the coach said. "Other players have up days and down days, but those three don't seem to have down days. They just always seem to be them all the time."
The coach also singled out two other seniors, defenseman Avery Pratt and goalkeeper Sarah Freedman — whom Dwight said has been "incredible" so far this year — as key contributors to this year's squad thus far, along with junior midfielder Jalissabeth Moreno, whom Dwight said has shown marked improvement from last year.
"From last year to this year, she's almost a different player," he said. "I know her club coach, and we actually texted about her a couple of times over the offseason. She communicates really well on the field compared to a lot of players, and it's been great to see her development."
And what's the competition look like in the Three Rivers League this season? Good, as usual, according to Dwight. But that doesn't mean the Timberwolves are not at least thinking about taking home the league crown, while at the same time believing they're capable of doing so if they play their game.
"Our goal is, number one, to win the league, but I assume every coach in our league is saying the same thing," Dwight said. "For us, a lot comes down to composure and game management. If we can get those two things down, we're going to be an incredibly strong team this year."
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