St. Helens falls just short of their second consecutive post-season berth, but the Lions are loaded with talent

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - St. Helens sophomore Ashley Geisbers fights to pull away from a Parkrose defender during the Lions' home draw with the Broncos on Oct. 17. The team's young, but dangerous striker has been one of the biggest pieces on the team and isn't close to finished as a Lion.After a successful non-league stretch, high hopes for a playoff run came crashing down for Lady Lions’ soccer, as a loss to Putnam in the teams’ final regular season game was enough to keep St. Helens (1-5-1 NWOC) out of the playoffs – although not by much.

It was a frustrating league schedule for the Lions, who were winless in their final six league games after picking up a 3-2 win over Milwaukie on Oct. 3. Against Putnam (5-1-1 NWOC), the story was eerily similar to the way the Lions have lost a number of other matches this season. St. Helens trailed 1-0 to Sherwood at halftime, but gave up five second-half scores. Against Liberty, it was much the same, and Putnam was no different.

Strong defense and goalkeeping from Athena Duggan saved the Lions in the first half, but after the break Putnam was able to put in a pair of scores while continuing to shut down the Lions on offense.

In spite of missing the playoffs, which was a team aspiration coming in to this season, Coach Simon Date has a host of things to look forward to in the coming years. Much of last years’ squad graduated, leaving a vacuum for players to fill. Instead of taking a huge step backward, the team was only just short of the mark last set by the 2012 Lions team, which was a berth and a loss in the play-in round.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Head coach Simon Date watches over his team during the loss to Sherwood. Though the team failed to qualify for the playoffs this season, Date has said next years' team looks good.St. Helens wasn’t far off. The Lions finished the season ranked 25th in Class 5A, only one place shy of the top 24 teams who make the playoffs.

“We’ve been talking to these girls for a long time now about how the last two or three weeks have been real, you know, discouraging,” said Date after the loss to Sherwood on Oct. 24. “Not very good for the team, but they haven’t given up.”

The game against the Bowmen was senior night for the Lions, which gave them a chance to recognize the girls playing the final home game of their high school career. Duggan stepped out of goal for the final 40 minutes, instead playing at left back so each of the teams’ five seniors could be taken off the field at once.

“What was really cool was, when we made the changes and got on (the rest of the team), in the first half and the end of the second half, you were basically looking at next year’s squad. Next year’s varsity team, and it looked good,” said Date. “It looked really good. We started playing, the energy was better, it was good. Good game.”

The core of the team’s talent is still young. The Lions will lose the contributions of seniors Patty Galvin, Kiwii Huff, Amber Moorehead, Keely Parrott and Stevie Strawn, but a large portion of the team’s underclassman-heavy roster will return.

Duggan, who became known for her fearless ability to come off her line and make a save, is only a sophomore, as is forward Genesis Hansen. Fiery striker Ashley Geisbers is a sophomore as well, and was responsible for a majority of the team’s 18 goals this season.

A squad with a reputation and appetite for last-second equalizers and magical comebacks, the Lions were able to get results in the waning minutes of at least four matches, including a 3-3 draw with Parkrose. The team has a huge upside, and with county club soccer on the rise, such a trend is sure to continue.

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