Girls soccer: North Marion enters season with high expectations
To say that the North Marion girls soccer team was the surprise of the 2017 fall season is a bit of an understatement. The Huskies entered last season with few expectations outside of the program. The team had won just two games the previous season, finishing fourth in the Oregon West Conference standings.
Prior to that, North Marion had won three games each in 2015 and 2014 and two in 2013. The last winning season was in 2012 when the team qualified for the first round of the playoffs, only to be eliminated in a 5-0 loss to Mazama.
No one expected much out of the Huskies last year, except for the Huskies of course.
"Except for our team, nobody knew what was coming," sophomore Carter Crawford said. "We knew what was coming, but nobody else did, which gave us a huge advantage."
What North Marion accomplished in 2017 was truly remarkable, opening the season with a 5-0 win over Seaside and never looking back. The Huskies ripped off win after win in 2017, and when the regular season ended, the team had piled up 12 wins — more than the previous four years combined — a perfect record in league play, the Oregon West title and the top seed in the 4A state playoffs.
"When you look at us, we don't look that intimidating, but when we get it on the field, you don't see it coming and we go for it and we give it our all," sophomore goalkeeper Alex McArthur said.
Perhaps even more remarkable was the personnel the Huskies were so thoroughly beating their opponents with. Of the 20 players on last year's roster, seven of them were freshmen, most of whom started or played significant minutes for the Huskies.
Midfielder Mya Hammack led the team in scoring en route to First Team All-Conference honors. McArthur and Hailey Welch each earned Honorable Mention recognition. Of course, the Huskies were more than just the freshman class that caught lightning in a bottle. Then-junior Mar Verastegui was named Conference Player of the Year, and the team lost a strong defensive backfield that included First Team senior Camry Jones and team captains Melinda Chappell and Mickenzie Hall.
As the team racked up wins last year, so too did the Huskies' confidence.
"Throughout the practices we knew the talent that we had, so we came into games really confident, which gave us the edge over other teams, especially because they weren't expecting what was coming," Crawford said.
But with the great season arose great expectations. Going into the postseason ranked No. 1 in the state, the Huskies were expected to go far. Instead, the team survived a close 3-2 win over Henley in the first round and were eliminated five days later in the quarterfinals courtesy of 2-1 overtime loss to Hidden Valley.
Now the Huskies enter this season unable to sneak up on opposing teams, but in an unusual position of being the favorites to take the Tri-Valley Conference. It seems fitting that North Marion should return to the Tri-Valley, where they played from 2010-2013, the last time the team made back-to-back playoff appearances.
North Marion will see its first live action on Aug. 23 at the Woodburn jamboree, and will return to Woodburn a week later to take on the Bulldogs in their season opener on Aug. 30. But as far as the Huskies are concerned, they'd be ready to jump into action right now if given the opportunity.
"Everyone is so pumped for this season because we did so well last season," McArthur said. "They put the banner that said "Unfinished Business" up and everyone's like, let's go, let's go, let's go!"