With nine sophomores and one freshman on the varsity roster, Lake Oswego girls soccer coach Dominic Yambasu has what he believes is the youngest squad he has ever fielded at Lake Oswego.
To some people, this might seem like a rebuilding year for the Lakers. Instead, it looks like Yambasu's squad will be a bona fide contender for the Three Rivers League championship. Give those younger girls a year or two of experience and the bar could wind up being set much higher.
Yambasu has never been willing to go too far out on a limb in predicting the potential success of his team. However, he did admit that there's a good chance that this year's team will make the playoffs. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess.
'They're going to be as good as the girls want to be,' Yambasu offered.
In Tuesday's season-opening game against a solid South Salem team, the Lakers started slowly but they looked good in the second half en route to a convincing 2-0 victory.
'(South Salem) was a good team … they were quick and fast. But our effort was very positive all the way around,' Yambasu said.
The highlight of the night had to be the play of sophomore forward Jacqui Wallis, who scored both goals in her first-ever varsity game.
The first goal, which came in the second half, started with a build-up from midfield. That led to a pass to returning all-league forward Mady Johnson, who then fed Wallis for the goal. On the second tally, Wallis picked up a rebound from a missed shot and quickly deposited it into the net.
Wallis, who is expected to be one of the TRL's top sprinters during the track season, didn't start Tuesday's game but she really made her presence felt once she entered the contest. Even though she was the star of the game, it doesn't mean that Wallis will immediately be moved to the starting lineup.
'It's not whether you start, it's what you do when you're on the field,' Yambasu said.
Wallis is one of eight varsity players who played for the Dynasty - a Lake Oswego Soccer Club team that was virtually unbeatable in the Northwest region at the U13, U14 and U15 levels. Yambasu coached that club for the first two years and he didn't hesitate in his decision to put eight of them on this year's varsity, even though they're just sophomores. A ninth player, who is also a sophomore, played on Dynasty's B team.
'That sophomore class is a very talented group of kids,' Yambasu said.
That group includes Gabby Lindeman and Tori Gray, who played their entire freshmen seasons with the varsity. A third member, Melinda Madden, joined the varsity for the playoffs.
But this team isn't dominated solely by the youngsters. Far from it.
The team leaders, and tri-captains, are the team's three seniors - Liz Schreyer, Ariana Green and Lauren Duin. Green, the team's goalkeeper, joined Johnson as second-team all-league selection last fall.
On a number of other teams, Johnson might be the leading scorer because her strength and quickness. But Yambasu relies more on a team-oriented concept, which keeps opponents from focusing too much on one player.
'I don't have a go-to player, which I think is good sometimes,' Yambasu said. 'Everybody on the team plays a role and they play it well.'
One of the team's strong suits will lie with its defense, where Gray, Lindeman and Cali Reis appear to be the leaders. Sara Edmonds and Meghan Ellis (a freshman) also will be major contributors in the back.
Yambasu's teams have made a habit of advancing at least to the state quarterfinals in recent years, 'and we hope to do so (again) if we continue to improve,' the coach said.
'I'm looking forward to another good year,' Yambasu added. 'We're going to be very young, but we'll be very competitive.'