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The Tigers are hoping to be even better in 2006

The Tigers hope to build upon last year, when they reached the state semis
by: Dan Brood, ON THE HUNT — Tigard junior Daniel Hunter (7), playing here in a scrimmage last week, is one of the top returnees for the Tigers this season.

TIGARD - The 2005 season was a magical one for the Tigard High School boys soccer team.

The Tigers, a year ago, battled all the way to the semifinals of the Class 4A state playoffs.

Many of the key players from that team have since graduated and left Tigard High School. But that doesn't seem to deter the 2006 Tiger team.

That squad has some high hopes of its own.

'Things are looking pretty good,' Tigard junior midfielder Daniel Hunter said after a team scrimmage last week. 'It's a lot better than I expected.'

'We have a strong corps of juniors and seniors,' senior goalkeeper Andrew Hickman added.

Hunter and Hickman are two key returnees from last year's Tigard team that tied McMinnville for the Pacific-9 Conference championship and moved all the way to the state semifinals, before losing to eventual champion Jesuit, and finishing the season with a final record of 12-4-2.

The Tigers say that the experience the team gained in that playoff run should help them this year.

'Now we know what it takes,' Hickman said.

'We want to do better than we did last year,' Hunter said.

'That's a good goal to set,' Hickman added.

Hickman, last year as a junior, was a second-team All-Pacific-9 Conference selection. He teams with fellow senior Brian Kostol to give the Tigers a strong combination at the goalkeeper spot.

'We have two strong senior goalies. That helps give us a lot of confidence in our defense,' Hunter said.

Tigard coach Gus Araujo also is impressed with the two Tiger keepers.

'Unquestionably, I think we have the best pair in the state,' said Araujo, who was the 2005 Class 4A Coach of the Year. 'They push each other to get better. Having two goalies like that is a nice luxury.'

Hunter will anchor Tigard's midfield. Last year, as a sophomore, he was a second-team all-league pick.

Senior Roland Mason, who also started for Tigard last year, when he was an honorable mention all-league pick, moves to the midfield this year after playing in the defense last year.

Joining them in the midfield will be another senior varsity returnee in Tomas Lafferriere.

'We're looking to them to control the midfield,' Araujo said.

Tigard has one more returning starter in senior Evan Samuelson. Last year, Samuelson played at a forward spot. This year, he'll be in the midfield, or in the back.

Axel Cortez should also see action on the defensive side of the field for the Tigers.

'He's looking good back there,' Araujo said.

Up front, Tigard will have sophomore Reid DeGeer, who saw some varsity action last year as a freshman.

'This year, with some experience, we're looking for him to step up and set the tone up front,' Araujo said.

At a wing spot, Tigard will have senior Alex Florence, who brings good size and speed to the position. He played at the junior varsity level last year. Senior Andrew Scheurich, who also played for the Tigard JV last year, will also play at wing spot.

Other players for the Tigers include seniors Maximillaiano Garcia, Oscar Ramirez, Elijah Roberts and Conner Smick and junior Cory Trank.

'I hope our workrate is a strength this year. I hope that keeps us in games,' Araujo said. 'These kids want to de as well as the team that preceded them.'

As for the new six-team Pacific Conference, Araujo sees Tualatin as the possible favorite.

'They had a good, young team last year,' he said. 'McMinnville is always a contender. We want to have a chance to play for one of the four playoff spots.'

In league play, each team will play each other league opponent twice this year.

'That's good,' Araujo said. 'By the second half, we want to be ready to be really competitive.'

Tigard opened its season Tuesday, battling Milwaukie to a scoreless tie in a match played at Tigard High School.

The Tigers will be back in action tonight (Thursday) when it plays at South Eugene at 7 p.m. On Monday, the Tigers will be home to face Southridge in a non-league match starting at 7 p.m.