Ritchie's dilemma could become a constant at Pleasant Hill.
PLEASANT HILL - Look for the ponytail.
That's the best way to spot McKynzie Ritchie, who doesn't stand out from her teammates the way you would think.
Ritchie, a freshman at Pleasant Hill, is the lone girl on the boys soccer team. After being the only girl to show up to soccer tryouts in August, playing with the boys became her only option.
"I was kinda disappointed because I've been wanting to play a school sport for a long time, and I thought girls soccer would have been here," she said. "I think they're expecting me to just play like a guy and pretty much be a guy since I'm on the guys team.
"It challenges me to do better, and I like that because I like challenge a lot. They are a lot more aggressive, and they've helped me out a lot this year. They've sped up my game."
However, more important than her just playing on the boys squad, she's pretty good. In the Billies' first game, Ritchie, a starting midfielder, scored a goal and added an assist. As a matter of fact, coach Rick Virgin said Ritchie is the second-most technically skilled player on the team.
"Pretty much from day one, she's fit right in with the guys and they pretty much just treat her like another one of the guys," Virgin said. "I just think that's a credit to her personality. She wasn't intimidated at all. She gets banged around out there pretty good, too, and she just pops right back up."
As with the girls team this year, the boys squad is in jeopardy next year. Of the 16 current members, eight are seniors, and Virgin said there needs to be at least 14 players to field a team next year.
The problem is that enrollment at Pleasant Hill has been dwindling in recent years, and athletics director Connie Bates expects the number to fall to approximately 300 next year - far below the minimum enrollment to stay in Class 4A. Therefore, the school will likely move down to Class 3A next year.
"I don't think we have to do anything to move down," Bates said. "The numbers are going to speak for themselves. If we wanted to stay up, we'd have to be petitioning to do that, and I think the feeling from the coaches and administration right now is that's not what we want to be doing, at least not right now. Right now we're in the middle of the 3A as it is."
In 2006, when the OSAA changed to six classifications, Creswell moved from 4A to 3A. Although that didn't create more championship opportunities for the Bulldogs, it allowed the school to be more competitive in every game, athletics director Paul Goldspink said.
"We're not winning lots more championships, but not getting crushed every week is a good thing too," said Goldspink, who estimated Creswell's enrollment is 350.
And for those who believe dropping in classification is a bad thing, Goldspink has another idea.
"That's a bunch of hooey," he said. "They're competing against schools their size. More kids are having more success."
For now, girls soccer isn't the only sport that is facing a numbers problem at Pleasant Hill. There is a question of whether enough girls will turn out to field one basketball squad this year, Bates said. And the future doesn't project any better for the school, said Bates, who added the incoming freshman next year will favor boys at nearly a 2-to-1 ratio.
"We are definitely in a transition stage right now from having the numbers and the teams and we're going the other direction," Bates said. "We're making those adjustments and having to make some decisions because of that."
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|Title Annotation:||Sports; McKynzie Ritchie is playing on the boys team because there aren't enough players for a girls team at the shrinking school|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Sep 24, 2008|
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