Two-team battle at top.
Thurston and North Eugene were co-champions of the Midwestern League last season, and with plenty of returning players, the Colts and Highlanders are likely to battle for the girls soccer title once again.
"I've told the girls they are two-time returning league champions, so they must have confidence when they step on the field and play like it," Thurston coach Stephanie Padilla said.
North finished tied with Thurston at 8-1-1 last season.
"We definitely have some high standards set for ourselves this year," North coach Brandy Wormdahl said. "If we stay healthy and work hard, we should have a successful year because it is a good mix of kids."
For all their past success, Thurston and North both have young rosters.
Thurston has only two seniors on the roster and none of its four returning all-league players are seniors.
Juniors Katie Bidwell and Jenna Lewis earned first team all-league honors last season, and junior Jessica Miller was a second-team pick. Katie Butler earned honorable mention as a freshman.
Bidwell, Lewis and Butler are the team's top offensive threats, along with sophomore Brittany Cardwell and junior Kayla Weston.
"Katie Bidwell scored a beautiful goal against Sheldon. She has stepped up as a leader and is off to a good start this season," Padilla said. "Brittany has come back a lot more offensive-minded than she was last year. Jenna has a strong leg and she can drive it into the back of the net. We have a good returning group of offensive players."
Thurston has 10 juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen on the roster.
"We are inexperienced in the sense that a lot of girls are in their second year on varsity, so we don't have those seniors who have been on varsity for three or four years," Padilla said. "So we are kind of inexperienced that way, but we do have nine or 10 varsity players back."
Junior Kaylee Moss is the new goalkeeper behind a defense that includes Miller, who is recovering from a broken ankle, and senior Cassidy Peterson, who missed almost all of last season after knee surgery.
The Highlanders feature a strong sophomore class that includes four players who earned all-league honors as a freshman.
Midfielder Iris Anderson was a first team all-league selection along with goalkeeper Melanie Trumbull.
Midfielder Kelsie Knight and defender Caprice Virde received honorable mention, and junior defender Shelby Campbell was a second-team selection.
"Our younger kids know how to win and have high expectations for success," said Wormdahl, who played seven freshmen last year and has two freshmen on the roster this season.
Sophomore Tayler Ficek is coming off a stress fracture in the summer.
"Taylor is a great scorer for us," Wormdahl said. "Iris and Kelsie have both gotten so much stronger from freshman to sophomore year, and they are definitely more of a force in the middle of the field."
Seniors Shannon Morgan and Jamie Lawrence also return for the Highlanders.
AROUND THE MIDWESTERN LEAGUE
Thurston: Looking for a third straight title after winning in 2006 and sharing title with North Eugene last year.
North Eugene: Young and talented, the Highlanders' sophomore-heavy lineup seeks another league title.
Churchill: Star freshman Ali Wonn is limited with a hip injury and returning goalkeeper Christine Wilson has been battling a sprained ankle. Junior Ashley Whitington and senior Susan Smith were second team all-league selections. Ali Wickham is a three-year starter.
Willamette: Wolverines return second team all-league selection Ashley Roberts along with Alicia Beebe and Leah Smirl, both honorable mention all-league selections last season. Opened the season with wins over Junction City and Lebanon.
Springfield: Jonathan Siegle, who coached at Sheldon from 1981-83 and at Springfield in 1988, returns to coach the Millers.
Marshfield: Seniors Christine Hunter and Courtney Lanza were second team all-league selections last season.