LA GRANDE SOCCER PREPARES FOR SEASON
p Girls will play Catlin Gabel in preseason
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
Powerhouse Catlin Gabel is on the La Grande girls' soccer schedule early this season.
Who knows, La Grande may meet the defending state champion later in the year in the playoffs for the third time. The Tigers will play a huge preseason game against the Eagles in Portland Sept. 15.
La Grande coach Alex Steenstra believes the Catlin Gabel match will take away the anxiety of the state tournament and will help him and the girls know where the team stands heading into league.
La Grande's runs in the state tournament have been halted twice by Catlin Gabel.
Last year, on its way to the state championship, Catlin Gabel beat the Tigers 2-1 on a goal late in regulation in the state quarterfinals. The Eagles also defeated La Grande by the same score in the state semifinals in 2000.
"Our strength this year is experience," Steenstra said. "(And) camaraderie. These girls are good friends and like each other."
The girls lost their leading scorer Lindsey Carmichael, who is attending Oregon Tech. But, Seven seniors return from last year's 14-1 team. They are forward and midfielder Alexis Baum, goalie Amber Rasmussen, forward Nicole Lewis, midfielder Caitlin Schoenfelder, midfielder Kayla Arritola, defender Megan Sherer and midfielder Sarah Noyes.
Baum was an all-state third-teamer and all-league first-team selection last year. Lewis was an all-league first-teamer.
The junior class returns defender Tricia Nebeker, defender Kelsi Woodfield, midfielder Crystal Kevan and defender and midfielder Ellen Barlow.
The rest of the team consists of junior forward Jennifer Hubbard, sophomore midfielder Larissa Sieders, sophomore forward Austin Nightingale, sophomore goalie Mandy Hillecke and freshman defender Molly McDougal.
"Our goal is to make improvements," Steenstra said, "steady improvements."
He said he would like the team to peak at the end of the season.
"We'd like to play as a team," Steenstra said. "We'll need to work on passing, trapping basic skills working as a team."
A concern this season is defense. The team lost all-league honorable mention defender Hilary Girrard and all-league first-team defender Amanda Schuft to graduation.
The La Grande girls will host a jamboree at 4 p.m. Friday.
Boys ready to go
The La Grande boys soccer team heads to the Pendleton Jamboree Friday.
La Grande coach Jessy Watson is looking at Trae Perry, Aaron Nebeker, Manuel Arceo, Josef Mielke and Jared Blakely to lead the team.
The La Grande boys, who finished 3-3-4 overall last year, lost 10 players to graduation.
Watson said everyone needs to get up to speed in preparation for the season.
La Grande kicks off its season in Madras Sept. 6. The boys host Ontario Sept. 9.