Chemistry spells success for Sunset in 11

Togetherness and teamwork are hallmarks of the 2011 Sunset Apollos
by: Miles Vance IN THE FINALE — Sunset goalkeeper Taylor Luty punches the ball away while teammate Kristen Jondahl and Tualatin’s Megan Freel close in on Saturday night.

HILLSBORO - First, you start with Sulfur, then add Uranium, Nitrogen, Selenium, and finally, Tungsten.

What do you get? In a laboratory, probably a dangerous explosion and some painful chemical burns.

But on the soccer pitch, you end up with SUNSET, another potent chemical combination that reacted in all the best ways possible and transformed a youthful and inexperienced group of individuals into one of the best high school girls teams in the state.

The Apollos - coming off a second-place finish in the Metro League season, and then a stirring run in the Class 6A state playoffs that culminated with Saturday's 1-0 loss to Tualatin in the state championship - weren't always so sure of their abilities, though.

'I would have not even thought about playing in this type of game back in August,' said Sunset coach Ben Durano, 'But this team has really come together. They've worked so hard.'

'We weren't ready then. Not at all,' agreed senior defender Kristen Jondahl. 'There was no way.'

But the youthful Apollos, who started nine underclassmen in the state title contest, found their rhythm early in the year, went 3-0 in non-league play, then went 3-1-1 in the first half of the Metro schedule.

As good as things had been to that point, Sunset was even better afterward. The Apollos opened the second half with a 2-0 win over Jesuit - the defending Class 6A champ and eventual 2011 Metro winner - went 4-1 in the second half and finished just three points behind the Crusaders, the top-ranked team in the state.

Sunset took a tie in a late non-league match against Canby, then rolled into the playoffs and knocked off Century (1-0), Sheldon (1-0), Lakeridge (4-2) and Westview (1-0) in order to reach Saturday's title contest, the win over Westview also avenging Sunset's lone second-half loss of the Metro campaign.

'I think they surprised each other,' Durano said. 'The turning point, definitely, was the Jesuit game. After beating Jesuit, they started believing that maybe they could go a little further than in previous years.'

And the key to all that success, the Apollos said, was chemistry.

'Our team chemistry just came together and we all get along really well,' said junior defender Claire Smith. 'It just shows on the field and we always want to be out there together. We just work together.'

'We just all had such great team chemistry and clicked better than we had other years,' Jondahl added. 'We became a family this year.'

The team also set a standard of excellence for years to come, but a standard that Sunset already expects its 19 returners to approach next year.

'I'm just going to remember our win against Jesuit and how hard we played, and how hard we worked to get here,' said sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Luty. 'I think we just had a group of girls who wanted to work the hardest, just wanted to win, and we just put our all into it.'

'The team chemistry was really good,' added senior forward Alicia Alarcon. 'Every one of our players is really talented on this team. In years to come, people better be ready for Sunset.'