MILTON-FREEWATER — The McLoughlin High School girls soccer team returns key team leaders for a large group of younger players as the Pioneers kick off the preseason at The Dalles, Ore., today.
“The Dalles is a really tough team,” senior midfielder Astrid Hernandez said. “We are going to try to be confident and see what the outcome is. It is going to be a close game.”
The Pioneers host Redmond at 2 p.m. Saturday, before concluding the preseason next Tuesday when Riverside comes to town at 4 p.m.
“As soon as the preseason is over, we will be settled and ready to play tough in the (Greater Oregon League),” Mac-Hi coach Martin Martinez said.
The regular season runs from the middle of September to the end of October with three games each against GOL conference foes La Grande, Ontario and Baker.
Top of the league last year was La Grande, followed by Ontario, Mac-Hi and Baker.
“We hope to grab one of the top two spots in the GOL this year,” Martinez said. “We are young, but we have talent. We have five seniors and a lot of freshman and sophomores. This year we have only one junior — Christy Childers.”
The team of 18 is comprised of eight freshman and four sophomores, along with the upperclassmen.
The program is 33 strong with an accompanying junior varsity team, and Martinez is hoping to increase that number as school opens today.
Up front for Mac-Hi is senior forward Veronica Garcia, the Pioneers’ top goal scorer with 21 a year ago.
“We have a really talented team this year,” Garcia said. “The freshmen that come in this year are really good and we some great returners. I think we’ll go pretty far.”
Playing in the backfield are senior Gabby Hernandez as middle defender and freshman Mallory Copeland as the goalkeeper.
“It is difficult to stop all the goals because we have to play against some really fast forwards,” Hernandez said. “I always know that we will have another defender behind me, though, to get my back.”
Also helping to stop goals against them will be senior defender Makia Carlson.
“We have one returning senior in each part of the field,” Martinez said. “And there will be the help of our junior upperclassman. Everyone will contribute, but seniors have been there the last few years. We will be good.”