The scoring is down, but the dominance continues for Jesuit's girls soccer team.
The three-time reigning 6A champion Crusaders graduated much of their firepower in Callan Harrngton – who owns state records for goals in a career (133) and season (55 as a senior) – and Jaiden McClellan, who now are on college teams at Oregon and San Jose State, respectively.
As a result, Jesuit's offense, which averaged 5.3 goals per game in 2019, is down to 2.9 goals this season.
Bolstered by an airtight defense, though, Jesuit (7-0-1) has extended its unbeaten streak to 66. The Crusaders have outscored their opponents 23-0.
“It's very comparable to last year except we don't have the explosiveness,” coach Steve Fennah said. “Obviously, Callan brings something a little different with her pace up front. But in many ways, with 11 seniors on the team, they're a year older and a year stronger.”
The back line returned intact with seniors Samantha Heinsen, Macy Barhyte and Quinn Barrett and sophomore Eva-Simone Grunkmeier. All-American goalkeeper Mary Votava moved on to Notre Dame, but senior Olivia Juarez “has done a fantastic job” as her successor, according to Fennah.
“I wouldn't say she's been battered by any means, but she's made important saves in each of our games,” Fennah said. “She's a very, very good goalkeeper that obviously had to be patient on our team with Mary over the last few years, being just a year older than her. But she's come into her own, and she's a leader for our team, as well.”
The team's leader in the field is senior center midfielder Maddy Koleno, who has signed with Arizona.
“She has such a strong presence on the field,” Fennah said. “Reads the game well, and is very athletic, so she's able to run at people.”
The offense has been balanced. Junior Taylor Krueger and freshman Abby Cox each have three goals and five others have two.
Since opening with a 0-0 tie against Southridge, the Crusaders have won seven in a row. They beat West Linn 4-0 and Barlow 2-0, both 6A quarterfinalists from 2019. They also won 2-0 over Grant, a 6A second-round team last season.
“We couldn't score any goals against Southridge, as much as anything else,” Fennah said. “I don't think we played any better or worse than any other day.
“We've been really fortunate in that our nonconference opponents are strong teams this year. So we've had competitive games from everybody we've had to play.”
Jesuit gets a big test Thursday when it plays host to rival Mountainside (7-0-1), the team it defeated to win the Metro League and the 6A championship in 2019. With the teams tied for first place, Metro bragging rights are at stake.
“I'm sure our kids are excited for it,” Fennah said. “We've had a little rivalry with them the last couple years.”
Fennah said it is “sad” that the Crusaders won't get a chance to chase a four-peat. They will finish off their season next week with a four-team event at Providence Park, where they meet Clackamas on Monday and either Sherwood or Lincoln on Wednesday.
“It's an award for the kids, playing in the stadium,” Fennah said. “But other than playing in the stadium, it's just two more nonconference games in a strange, strange season. We would've liked to have seen some kind of culminating event, but it's just too many variables.”
Turning the Paige
Jesuit isn't the only team that has kept winning despite losing a prolific offensive player.
West Salem, which won the Mountain Valley Conference in 2019 and reached the 6A semifinals, is 8-1 without Paige Alexander, who had 25 goals and 15 assists as a senior and now is on the team at Oregon.
The Titans got a bonus with the addition of the Duke sisters, who play in the Portland Thorns program. Freshman Morgan Duke has scored a team-high 10 goals and sophomore Lauren Duke, who didn't play for West Salem in 2019, has joined the team and provided a lift.
“They've elevated our group,” first-year Titans coach Benje Orozco said. “They're kind of the catalysts to raise the level of everyone.”
Orozco said that Morgan Duke's offense has been a surprise. At 6-foot, she has a physical edge on opponents.
“She's been quite the force to be reckoned with,” Orozco said. “She's tall, fast and strong. She's a workhorse.”
West Salem graduated seven starters from last season but have kept winning behind the Dukes and a strong junior class. The Titans suffered their first loss Monday night, falling to South Salem 1-0.
“I was little concerned coming in thinking it might be a rebuild year, but the girls have created their own identity and their own chemistry,” said Orozco, who replaced Whitney Pitalo. “There's a lot of soccer-knowledgeable kiddos in the program. It's been great to watch them blossom and kind of write their own little history.”
Orozco, who has coached in the Capital FC club program for two decades, went 28-13-7 as West Salem's boys coach from 2011 to 2013. His daughter, Olivia, was a senior on the girls team in 2019, and he has two daughters currently in the program: Veronica, a junior on varsity, and Lucia, a freshman on JV.
In the culminating week, West Salem will be part of a crossover series between the Mountain Valley Conference and the 5A Mid-Willamette Conference. The first-place teams will face the opposite No. 2 teams, with the winners and losers meeting to finish the season.
Jesuit-Mountainside is one of two state championship rematches this week.
Catlin Gabel (6-0-1, 5-0) plays host to Oregon Episcopal (4-1-1, 4-0) on Thursday in the regular-season finale for 3A/2A/1A Special District 1. The teams tied 2-2 in a nonleague match March 8 at Catlin Gabel.
Oregon Episcopal and Catlin Gabel have played in the last five state championship games. The Eagles ended the Aardvark's run of five consecutive titles in 2019, winning 2-1.
This week's schedule also includes a pivotal match in the 6A Portland Interscholastic League. Lincoln (6-1, 4-0) and Grant (4-1-1, 2-0) meet Tuesday at Delta Park with first place on the line.