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LAST ACT: La Grande senior Mandy Hillecke was a first-team all-Greater Oregon League goalie last season as the Tigers won a GOL title and earned a berth in the 3A playoffs.   (The Observer/CAMERON PARKINSON).
LAST ACT: La Grande senior Mandy Hillecke was a first-team all-Greater Oregon League goalie last season as the Tigers won a GOL title and earned a berth in the 3A playoffs. (The Observer/CAMERON PARKINSON).

Cameron Parkinson

Staff Writer

As Alex Steenstra announces the selection of players that made it onto the varsity roster, teammates clap for each other.

"My expectation is to see steady improvement throughout the year," Steenstra said. "Then compete for the championship at the end of the year."

Steenstra coached for seven years before taking the last year off while doing research in New Zealand for his job teaching economics at Eastern Oregon University.

The Tigers were co-champions last year with Ontario with a 7-1 league record and 7-2 overall.

La Grande has won five straight Greater Oregon League championships, both outright and shared.

Although the team is young this season they are led by senior goal keeper Mandy Hillecke.

Hillecke was selected to the first team GOL last year and has stepped up to a more prominent leadership role this year.

"I get in front of the lines and help lead the stretches," Hillecke said. "Make sure people are doing what they need to do."

Senior and captain Larissa Sieders missed last year with an inurty to her anterior cruciate ligament but has been making sure people know what's going on.

"I have been calling people, mainly the freshman who didn't know what to expect," Sieders said. "Making sure that they hustle and push it."

Hillecke said she thinks this year will be harder since they don't have the returning players as in years past.

"There is more pressure on us now because in the past we always had the players to dominate games 11-0 or 9-0," Hillecke said. "This year its going to be a lot more of a challenge and the girls are going to need to pull their weight out there."

Steenstra said that he doesn't think their youth is a problem.

"We have a relatively young team with only four seniors," Steenstra said. "But they are used to the pressure."

Hillecke said she is up to the challenge but thinks that she might be tested in the net more often this year.

"We have a real offensive team so I am a little worried about my defense," Hillecke said.

Seiders said she likes having their coach back, and that they have high expectations for the year.

"We really want state this year," Seiders said. "We've already decided."

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