by: DAN BROOD, DEFENDERS — Southridge senior midfielder Ari Edwards (right, against defending state champion Tualatin) and fellow senior Michelle Saflate hope to lead the Skyhawks back to the playoffs in 2006.

Parity. Competitive. Balanced. Battle.

According to the girls soccer coaches, the new scaled-down Metro League will be all that and more this season as the six Beaverton-area teams clash to determine supremacy in what should be a tightly contested race for four playoff spots. One need not look further then a pair of 0-0 ties to open the league season for proof of what is to come.

'It's going to be a battle,' Beaverton coach Brittney Estep-Carmichael said. 'No team is head and shoulders above anybody else. It has to do with who's healthy and who's clicking.'

'This league is just going to be very competitive,' Jesuit coach Ken Skipper said. 'Take the Hillsboro schools out and it is very balanced. I can't believe anyone will get through this thing without a blemish.'

'It's pretty much up for grabs,' Southridge coach Jeff Lim said. 'There's a lot of parity in the league this year. It's a hard one to call.'

When pressed, league coaches tended to favor Westview, which has allowed just one goal in starting the season 5-0-0, including four non-conference victories over returning state qualifiers. Regardless of who wins, each of the four playoff teams will be battle tested for the playoffs.

'Westview has the slight edge,' Skipper said. 'Southridge should be second. 'It will be a battle between us, Beaverton and Sunset for the third and fourth spots.'

'Based on how the Metro team's have done in the preseason, I'd say Westview and Southridge,' Sunset coach Ben Durano said. 'The team with the least amount of injuries will be the one going in strong into the playoffs.'

Adding intrigue is the new scheduling format in which each of the six teams will play each other twice.

'The team that wins it is going to deserve to win it,' Skipper said. 'There will be no flukes.'

'The second time through, teams will make adjustments,' Lim said. 'There's not a game to relax and take it easy. You have to get after it each game.'

Following are previews of the varsity girls soccer teams at the six Metro League high schools.


ALOHA - This would've been a great season for Aloha to earn some Metro victories a year after going 0-9 in league play and 0-13-1 overall. Trouble is the new league format makes that more difficult with the subtraction of the Hillsboro schools.

The Warriors were 3-0-1 in the preseason, including a 5-1 win over former Metro foe Century. But Aloha started league play with a 5-0 loss to preseason favorite Westview, albeit without one of its top players. While earning a playoff spot still remains a reach, wins and losses won't necessarily measure the team's success.

'Our optimism is competing with these schools,' Aloha coach Rick Dormer said. 'We've never given them a close game. I think we can do that this year.'

Integral to that is the abilities of senior forward Hayley Koch, who is driven by her omission from all-league recognition last year.

'She will be one of the better players in the state,' Dormer said. 'She has a good natural touch on the ball. She'll carry a lot of the load on her shoulders.'

Some of that weight was lifted when senior sweeper Sophia DeGraff returned from knee injuries that kept her off the field the past two seasons.

'She competes real hard and is a pretty good athlete,' Dormer said. 'She's just excited to be playing again.

Senior center midfielder Jodi Edley provides stability and returns from a third-team all-league campaign last year.

'She gives us experience and strength as the center mid,' Dormer said. 'Those three stuck together over the years through the good and bad.'

That veteran trio have benefited from the emergence of freshman playmaker Ashley Hittner. The athletic forward was the team's leading goal scorer in the preseason.

'Hayley draws the crowd and she can dish it off to Ashley, who has plenty of ability ' Dormer said.

Other players Dormer expects to contribute include sophomore defender Kahyra Ramirez, junior defender Amanda Becker and junior forward Alina Ferguson.

'The girls are trying to turn the corner here,' Dormer said. 'I'm excited with what they're doing.'


BEAVERTON - Beaverton features a solid back line to go with a balanced attack and strong team unity that the Beavers hope will lead them back into the postseason after finishing tied for fifth in the league last season.

Beaverton has allowed just three goals in a 3-1-1 start to its season due in part to the play of defenders Becca Woods, a senior that was second team all-league last year, and junior Alli Hubbard. Woods is the only returnee in the back line that has been the team's strength so far this season.

'They are an incredible tandem to try to get through,' Beaverton coach Brittney Estep-Carmichael said. 'They trust each other so much.'

If the defense is breached, the opposition will have to get past sophomore goalkeeper Caitlin Ellerbe, who has 'really stepped up and shown maturity,' according to Estep-Carmichael.

Beaverton is held together by a strong group of seniors that includes forward Shannon Saxton, who is coming off a first team all-league season.

'She's a very quick player,' Estep-Carmichael said. 'She definitely has a nose for the goal.'

Senior midfielders Sara Blake and Gillian Frackelton, junior midfielder Stephanie Lilla and freshman forward Kally Barker are also threats in a deep crew of attackers.

'The girls have learned to use everyone on the field and not just rely on a couple key players,' Estep-Carmichael said. 'Our seniors are definitely the core of this team. This is one of the most close-knit groups I've had.'


BEAVERTON - An extremely young Jesuit squad has proven its worth defensively, allowing two goals in a 1-0-4 start to its season. Scoring has proven to be a different story for the Crusaders, who have just one senior and eight freshmen on its roster.

'We're really strong defensively, but we're not scoring very many goals,' Jesuit coach Ken Skipper said. 'Finishing is always the last thing that comes around as a team.'

Jesuit has already played to two scoreless ties and two more that finished 1-1, including a match against defending state champion Tualatin. And that's with just one returning defensive starter in junior Brittany Davis-Roberti.

Also back is one of the state's top goalkeepers in junior Kari Davidson, who earned second team all-league last year. Davidson has started every game for Jesuit the past two seasons.

'She's a very experienced and athletic goalkeeper,' Skipper said. 'She has great size and quickness. She's really got it all.'

Davis-Roberti heads the defense and is joined in the back by defenders Anisa Babar, a junior, sophomore Sophie Reeve and freshman Kristin DeGrandmont.

'They have defended well for a young team,' Skipper said. 'I couldn't be happier with our defense.'

Key to the Crusaders making that effort pay off is the return of junior forward Katy Metcalf, the team's leading returning scorer. Metcalf injured her MCL in the preseason and could be back sometime next week.

'With Katy out up front, we're really struggling to score goals,' Skipper said. 'She's a leader and is very competitive. She's a very athletic goal scorer.'

Anchoring the team's attack in Metcalf's absence is Jesuit's lone senior, midfielder Lauren Wilkins, who earned second team all-league honors last year. She has been aided by the emergence of freshman midfielder Sarah Bridges.

Sophomore Kate Beaudoin returns as a starting forward for the Crusaders and is joined up front by sophomore center forward Charlotte Dugoni.


BEAVERTON - The defending league champions graduated just three seniors off last year's team, but have been hit hard by injuries in a 2-1-2 start to its season after going 14-2-2 last fall, including 7-0-2 in league play.

'It's been one of those seasons where if anything can go wrong, it probably will,' Southridge coach Jeff Lim said.

It started when junior midfielder Alex Earl, who was second team all-state last year, broke her foot during a summer league basketball game. Then junior goalkeeper Wendy Cooper tore her ACL in the Skyhawks' second game. Cooper, who was third team all-league last year, is out for the season.

Earl, who led the team with 22 goals lin '05, was recently cleared to begin rehabilitation, but it could 'take a couple weeks to bring her up to speed,' Lim said.

'She's just an all-around solid player,' Lim said. 'She has a knack for finding the ball. I'm hoping for her return soon.'

In the meantime, Southridge will rely on the play of midfielders Lauren Nunez, a senior, and junior Alyssa Rife, as will as defenders Casey Finney, a senior, and junior Sarah Kelsay. Lim said Rife has filled in admirably, while Finney has 'made an impact this year on the defensive side.'

'They're playing some big roles for us right now,' Lim said. 'A lot of players have to step up with all the injuries we had.'

That includes senior midfielder Ari Edwards, forwards Megan Rupp, a junior, and sophomore Kelsey Hones. Freshman Ana Montoya also figures into the mix, though Lim is still trying to find a spot for her.

'It will be experimentation on the fly,' Lim said. 'We're still trying to get a feel at this point. We should be solid all the way across the board once Alex comes back. She gives us another weapon. A big one.'

Freshman Jeni Picken and junior Nicky Edlund have been splitting the goalkeeping duties in Cooper's absence.


CEDAR MILL - With 16 returning players, one of the few new things about Sunset this season is its coach.

Even then, Ben Durano has plenty of knowledge of the Metro League after coaching at Glencoe the past five years.

The Apollos did lose four seniors, including three all-leaguers, but Durano feels there should be others ready to step in and give this team a chance to make the playoffs after tying for fifth in the league and missing out last year.

'Hopefully we can finish in the top-4,' Durano said. 'That will be the challenge for us.'

Leading the charge is senior midfielders Karen Hosler and Dana Lively, junior forward Chelsea Robinson and senior striker Bri Meek. Hosler was third team all-league last year and joins Lively to form a strong duo in the middle for Sunset.

'They're both physically strong and imposing,' Durano said. 'Anytime you can control the midfield, you dictate the tempo of the game. It's good to have that.'

Robinson, a returning third team all-leaguer, and Meek give the Apollos some solid experience up front.

'They are both very quick and have played together a couple years,' Durano said. 'They can create havoc, especially against younger defenses.'

Speaking of which, Sunset has just that with junior Jenna Quiring and sophomores Kelsey Labelle and Kristina Paik forming the Apollos' back line. Sunset will also have a youngster in the goal with freshman Molly Mettler currently holding the spot, though senior Madison Parker may also see minutes.

'We're going to have some bumps early, especially with the young defense and goalkeeper,' Durano said. 'I'm more concerned with how we play near the end of October and that we can peak at the right time.'


ROCK CREEK - Westview has turned some heads so far this season, knocking off four '05 playoff teams in non-conference play then opening Metro League play with a 5-0 win over Aloha.

'It's a good start,' Westview coach Chris Martin said. 'That was a good confidence booster.'

Martin credits team balance as the main factor in the strong start in which the Wildcats have allowed just one goal.

'I think we really pride ourselves on the defense and not getting scored on,' Martin said. 'But we're different from last year in that we can also put some in.'

The team features five strong seniors, though it has been the underclassmen making the most of their opportunities this season.

Sophomore center midfielder Mo Fitzgerald, junior forward Jenna Krogh and junior center midfielder Olivia Dupon have each made an impact so far and are coming off all-league seasons. Krogh is one of three first-teamers in the league returning, while Fitzgerald and Dupon, who transferred from Southridge, each earned second team honors.

Krogh and Fitzgerald have been the team's main playmakers at this point.

'Jenna's biggest asset is definitely her speed,' Martin said. 'Plus she's pretty good shooting with either foot and has a wealth of experience. Mo is little, but she's pretty quick. She's very creative with the ball, sees the field well and distributes the ball.'

Senior midfielder Katie Brown and junior sweeper Brooke Cole add experience, while freshman Kwynn Butts has done 'a very nice job changing her game to suit the high school game,' according to Martin.

Junior Brooke Cole heads the defense and is supported by seniors Kristen Thomas and Kristin Unti on each side.

'Brooke communicates well,' Martin said. 'People respond well and respect her for her game.'

Junior Erin Bochnak returns in the goal for the Wildcats and has yet to give up a goal this season.

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