The West Linn boys soccer team did a lot of things right in 2016.
The Lions, operating under first-year coach Travis Roth, battled to second place in the always-tough Three Rivers League, then advanced all the way to the Class 6A state quarterfinals before falling to 6A runner-up McMinnville.
This year, the Lions would like to replicate and improve on all of that.
"I think we'll compete for the top spot again," said Roth, whose team went 4-1-2 in TRL play and 10-5-2 overall. "I think we ought to have a chance at the top three."
This year's Lion crew will be led by three returning all-leaguers, senior midfielder Bryan Chapman (a first-team all-TRL pick in '16), senior forward Jack Houghton (an honorable mention selection last year) and junior midfielder Abdul Ali (another honorable mention pick), along with varsity returners Adam Beyer (a junior defender) and Gavin Tinsley (a junior forward).
"They have all stepped up in leadership roles this year and are doing a good job making sure guys are doing their jobs," Roth said.
Also back with varsity experience are junior goalkeeper Eli Wall and junior midfielder Matt Kurtin.
As a group, the Lions' experienced core makes Roth optimistic for the coming Three Rivers League season.
"Our strength this year will be down the spine of the field," Roth said. "Our forwards, center mids and center backs — that's the core of the team."
Varsity newcomers this year include: junior goalkeeper Cole Goodheart, senior midfielder Quinn Manes, senior midfielder Ben Walker, senior midfielder Zach Daniels, sophomore defender Mikael Phillips, senior midfielder Caetano Vega, senior midfielder Aidan Sloan, sophomore defender Marco Kreske, senior defender Shashunk Thandri, senior forward Sean Beuckens, junior defender Garrett Jackson and senior defender Thomas Skates.
While the team features a large group of first-year varsity players — the team graduated nine seniors and lost 11 players total from 2016 — Roth feels good about their abilities.
"A lot of the new guys, with just a different bounce of the ball, could have been on the (varsity) team last year," he said.
Roth said he expects his team to battle 2016 TRL and state champ Lakeridge again this year, but added "I think (the league race) is pretty open. You never know which team will have a breakout year."
To see the Lakeridge boys team preview, click here.
To see the Lake Oswego boys team preview, click here.