But their goalies need to grow up in a hurry

MILWAUKIE - With a good nucleus of returning players, the La Salle Falcons plan on challenging Gladstone for the Tri-Valley Conference girls soccer title this fall.

'La Salle, Molalla and Gladstone have been the top three seeds from league for some time, and I expect the same to be true this year,' said La Salle coach Ryan Cereghino. 'One of our team's main goals is to take games from Gladstone and Molalla.'

The Falcons were the only team to tie Gladstone in conference play last season. They've got six returning starters, including sophomore forward Megan White, who was the team's leading scorer in 2010.

The Falcons also return starting midfielders Amanda Byrne, Elise Christoferson and Courtney Crain, along with starting defenders Jennifer McNassar and Chloe Basile.

Byrne, a junior, was a first-team all-conference selection last fall, while Christoferson also received conference all-star recognition.

The biggest question mark for the Falcons is in-goal, where sophomores Sydney Chvilicek and Bailey Titus have been battling for starting honors.

Titus was keeper for last year's junior varsity team that went 11-1-1.

Chvilicek is a first-year soccer player, who plays catcher in softball.

'She's athletic, she's strong and she's got the mentality of a goal keeper,' Cereghino said of Chvilicek. 'She's just going to continue to get better as her knowledge grows. She's a quick learner.'

Cereghino says that both keepers have been training hard all summer under the tutelage of La Salle goalie coach and graduate Anne Braghero.

The Falcons will have a lot of youth in their lineup. Christoferson and midfielder Mia Stigler have been the only seniors in the starting lineup in early season games.

Freshman Veronica Horton has been starting at stopper, freshmen Kate Christoferson and Claire Primack have been sharing one forward position, and junior Allie Sprauer has been starting on defense.

'From an attacking standpoint, I like the way our midfielders and forwards are playing together,' said Cereghino. 'And our defenders are doing what they can to help out our goalies while they develop and gain experience playing at the varsity level.'

The Falcons were in form on Sept. 13, when they upended Roosevelt. Byrne and Kate Christoferson scored two goals apiece in a 7-1 victory, while Primack and senior Cecilia Becker added single tallies.

Byrne scored La Salle's lone goal in La Salle's season opener, a 2-1 loss at Valley Catholic.

The Falcons begin league play this Thursday, when they take on Madras on the road.

Cereghino said his charges have an added motivation to finish better in league this year than they did a year ago.

'Last year we lost our first playoff game on a snow-filled field at Sisters,' he said. 'The field was a mess. There was two inches of snow. We don't want to have to make a trip like that again.'

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