La Grande graduate will play close to home next season

February 12, 2014 11:37 am

Most babies have cute mobiles hanging over their cribs, with a stuffed animal sitting in the corner. There are those babies, and then there’s Alora Brown. 

The La Grande High School senior grew up with a soccer ball in her crib. Her parents, Sam and Kathleen, encouraged the passion they share.

As Alora grew, so did the desire to play soccer. 

“I’m playing just about all year,” Brown said. “I play indoor soccer during the winter to keep working on things. It’s something I’ve just always done, and soccer is something I really enjoy.

“It’s been great to have my dad as my main coach. He’s taught me so much about the game.”

Alora was part of a class of seniors that helped rebuild the Tigers’ soccer program. La Grande went 6-8-1 overall in Brown’s freshman year. From there, the win totals kept climbing. It culminated in a 16-1-0 overall record last season, including a 6-0-0 Greater Oregon League record. The Tigers advanced to their first state championship in soccer, falling to Scappoose 3-1.

Brown’s speed and physicality helped lead a defense that allowed six goals on the year — the best in Class 4A. Brown was selected as an all-state defender following the season. 

After the school year, Brown’s soccer career won’t be over. And, it won’t be too far for her family to travel. Brown scrimmaged with one four-year program — Eastern Oregon University. 

“I was a little worried about the scrimmage,” Brown said. “To me, it didn’t go that well. I was so glad to get an offer to play for Eastern.”

Now Brown will be part of another program looking to change course. The Mountaineers had their best season since 2006 when they finished 11-6. EOU had the best start to the season in the school’s history this season, 4-0, and finished 9-5-1. The Mountaineers advanced to the postseason, but lost to Southern Oregon 2-0 in Ashland. 

Head coach Jennifer Simonetti is looking forward to having Brown join the team, and keeping the success of the program going. 

“We’re very excited with the whole recruiting class,” Simonetti said. “We have a lot of talented players coming in, but we’re going to be young. There are still a couple of transfers that we’re looking at to bridge the gap with the youth we have.

“Alora brings speed to the program. That’s something you can’t never have too much of. She’s such a great athlete. Alora just has a passion for the game. The reads the game really well, and that helps her make plays on defense.”

Even though Simonetti see a great chance of success for Brown at the collegiate level, Brown will be taken out of her comfort zone. She will be moved to the outside on defense, instead of her familiar inside position. Simonetti feels this is the best way to utilize the skill set that Brown brings to the field.

“With Alora’s 1-on-1 defending abilities and high level of fitness, she will make an excellent and competitive defender in our program,” Simonetti said.

Brown is a little more shaky in her self evaluation despite her past success on the field.

“I’m a little worried about my ball control,” Brown said. “On the outside I’ll be running a lot more, and be more involved in the offense. It sounds fun, but it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to be an interesting transition to the college level.” 

The Mountaineers have a total of eight players in the incoming class so far. The athletics department is releasing two per week. Besides Brown, Alexis Smith of Post Falls, Idaho has been added to the defense. Smith was named All Idaho State First Team her junior season. Danika Pink of Pullman, Wash., will help fill out the backfield. During her senior year, Pink was named All-Conference Honorable Mention, and she led her high school to a 4A district championship.EOU also signed goalkeeper Amber Neilson from Puyallop, Wash. In her career, Neilson recorded 24 shutouts. During her senior season, Nielson only allowed three goals in league action and led the team to a 13-1 record.