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The Lady Bowmen lost 15 seniors from last year's quarterfinalist team, but they've reloaded and are aiming for a title.

JAIME VALDEZ-PAMPLIN MEDIA - Sherwood's Ella Weathers (4) battles for the ball during a Bowmen game last season. Weathers is a key contributor for this year's Sherwood team that's aiming for a conference title.The 2021 Sherwood High School girls soccer team won a league championship and made it to the quarterfinals of the OSAA state playoffs.

The 2022 version is missing 15 players from that team due to graduation, but despite the loss of the skill and experience that went with them, Bowmen head coach Natasha Cohen is excited about what this team is and can bring to the competitive table — even with a new cast of characters.

"This is definitely a different group than we've had in the past, but in a good way," Cohen said. "Whether they're on the field or off, they are extremely connected. They're like a little family, and I'm really excited about what they're going to be able to do together."

What they've done so far is win two, lose two and tie two — but they've done so against a murderer's row of talent.

The Lady Bowmen started the year with a win over South Eugene and later beat last year's state runner-up, Beaverton. Additionally, they played 2021 state champion Grant and Woodburn even, and they dropped games with Metro League powers Sunset and Jesuit.

Cohen said the Jesuit game — which the Bowmen lost 2-1 — was a good measuring stick of where they are early on, and the coach for the most part was pleased with how her team performed even in defeat.

"It was an incredible game," she said. "It was really fun to watch the girls go out and compete. Obviously, Jesuit has a great reputation and a great program, so we knew we were going to need to battle, and the girls did exactly that. I was incredibly proud of them."JAIME VALDEZ-PAMPLIN MEDIA - Sherwood's Lainee Derry (16) competes during a game against Grant last season. Derry is one of the senior leaders the Bowmen are counting on on and off the field this season.

Even with the massive senior exodus, this year's Sherwood team still has a lion's share of upperclassmen, including first-team All-Pacific Conference forward Ella Weathers and second-team all-leaguers Taylor Holt and Lainee Derry.

Additionally, the Bowmen return junior goalkeeper Charlotte Overton, who mostly sat behind second-team all-league goalie Tali Kozma last season. Overton has been solid so far this season, allowing less than two goals per game against some of the state's most potent offenses, and Cohen said she's been impressed with how her first-year starter has handled herself in the net.

"She's done an incredible job and has made some incredible saves," Cohen said. "She's got a lot of tenacity and is very tough. It helps our confidence even more to know she's back there as our last line of defense."

That's especially helpful with Sherwood's relatively new back line. While fortunate to have two all-leaguers in Holt and Derry anchoring the defense, they're also breaking in a relatively new unit that includes freshman Caroline Fischer.

Coach Cohen still considers the group a strength of their team, but she knows there's still some necessary growth to maximize their potential.

"They're learning how to kind of come together," she said, "and I think they're growing stronger every day."

Other Bowmen players Cohen mentioned as key contributors were two midfielders, junior Jaclyn Barritt and sophomore Grace Coston, and sophomore forward Savannah Leahy. Weathers and Leahy, in particular, have been "really great working together," Cohen said.

The infusion of youthful talent is something Cohen and her staff said they knew was coming, but until they saw it, was hard to quantify or count on.

"It's been really exciting to watch some of these girls come into their own and really show the potential they've got," the coach said. "We knew the talent was there, but it's about giving them that opportunity and letting them just go for it."

Sherwood's state quarterfinal loss last year came at the hands of Forest Grove, and Cohen said she expects the Vikings to be among the Pacific Conference's top competitors this year, too. Because of that, she's looking forward to their matchup Oct. 4.

But don't get it twisted — the coach and team know better than to get ahead of themselves, and that's how they plan to attack things as they work towards what they hope is a conference championship.

"We definitely have our eyes on winning a conference title, but we're just trying to take it game by game and winning each day," Cohen said. "We don't take any team or any game for granted. We just want to keep working and let the winning take care of itself."

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