Kelso (GSHL 3A)
Last year: 9-4-4 overall, 6-3-1 in league; lost in bi-district playoffs
Coach: Kemal Vejo (fifth season)
Player to watch: Turner Joy, sr., D
X-Factor: Makayla Roggow, jr., MF
Outlook: Kelso returns a solid number of players and the seniors are drawing rave reviews from their coach. “Our seniors are very strong,” Kemal Vejo said. “Last year they did a decent job, and this year, I think they’re going to be much better.” That’s a good sign for a team that was 6-3-1 in the Greater St. Helens 3A League and 9-4-4 overall. That was good for third place, and marginal improvement could have the Lassies in a nice spot this season.
R.A. Long (GSHL 2A)
Last year: 10-9 overall, 6-6 in league; lost in district playoffs
Coach: Teresa Aloe (third season)
Player to watch: Abbie Anderson, sr., MF
X-Factor: Maddie Reece, sr., D/MF
Outlook: Focused on identifying and fixing mistakes, the Lumberjills are looking to compete after finishing 2016 with a 10-9 record. A defensive improvement could pay dividends as this team had no problems scoring goals last year. “We’re a strong 11, and that’s what I am really impressed with,” coach Teresa Aloe said. “All of our practices are about being a team, every practice is important.”
Mark Morris (GSHL 2A)
Last year: 2-13-1 overall, 1-11 in league; missed playoffs
Coach: Eric Maxey (12th season)
Player to watch: Shana Busch, sr., MF
X-Factor: Heaven Burr, so., F
Outlook: The difference makers sometimes come in young packages. This could be the case for the Monarchs, who Coach Maxey says has a really strong group of freshmen. They will have to deal with a few teams that are tough — Columbia River, Ridgefield and Hockinson — as well as R.A. Long, who could also be a threat this year. “But we’re going to battle,” Maxey said. “With a young group you really don’t know until they play.”
Woodland (GSHL 2A)
Last year: 3-12-1 overall, 1-11 in league; missed playoffs
Coach: Fred Jenkins (first season)
Player to watch: Mikayla Upson, sr., MF
X-Factor: Ashlyn Daugherty, jr., MF
Outlook: The Beavers are hoping to rebound from a 2016 season that saw just one league win. “It’s going to be tough,” coach Fred Jenkins said, noting the league’s high competition level. “If we could just hang in the middle of the pack, I’d be happy.” Jenkins notes that new assistant Vic Oenning will bring his 30 years of coaching experience to the table and expects that to be a major help.
Castle Rock (Trico 1A)
Last year: 1-11-3 overall, 0-7-3 in league; missed playoffs
Coach: Alyssa Hudson (second season)
Player to Watch: Maddie Epperson, sr., MF
X-Factor: Kellie Webber, sr., GK
Outlook: Winless in league play during the 2016 season, the Rockets will hope to build from their defensive group and wear down opponents as they sharpen their offense. Their first few nonleague games could prove pivotal to this, as they face Toledo, Tenino, Elma and Winlock to start.
Kalama (Central 2B)
Last year: 15-5 overall, 11-3 in league; state runner-ups
Coach: John Bates (fourth season)
Player to watch: Emily Mickelson, sr., D/MF
X-Factor: Lily Given, so., MF
Outlook: Freshman forward Melanie Martinez could step in and make an impact right away for the Chinooks, who are currently reeling from injury. Kalama was third in its division last year before rallying to district runner-up and state runner-up finishes behind now-graduated Natalie Coleman’s 38-goal season. “We’re going to take it game by game,” coach John Bates said.
Toledo (Central 2B)
Last year: 6-10 overall, 5-9 in league; missed playoffs
Coach: Noel Vazquez (third season)
Player to watch: Ally Bacon, sr., F
X-Factor: Kyleigh Holmes, jr., MF
Outlook: One of Coach Vasquez’s primary goals for the Indians is to get past Kalama and Adna — the district finalists a season ago — with the expectation that wins against top competition will build confidence. “The league is tough because the two top teams in the state are in our league,” Vasquez said. Toledo has two freshmen who Vasquez has high hopes for — Haleigh Holmes and Maryssa Peters — and praised his “solid” midfielders that complement the rest of the roster.
Winlock (Central 2B)
Last year: 3-13 overall, 2-12 in league; missed playoffs
Coach: Brian Ziese (second year)
Player to watch: Maggie Howdsen, sr., D
X-Factor: Darby Low, sr., MF
Outlook: The Cardinals will look to rebound from a tough 2016 season with defender Maggie Howdsen in her senior season after being named a second team all-state defender by the Washington State Soccer Coaches Association last year. They also have youth to build with, as five eighth-graders and three freshmen dot the roster.
Clatskanie (Lewis and Clark 3A)
Last year: 2-10-1 overall, 0-9-1 in league; missed playoffs
Coach: Patrick Paul (fourth season)
Player to watch: Victoria Griffith, sr., MF
X-Factor: Morgan Day, sr., F
Outlook: The Tigers could surge with eight seniors on their squad this year, the largest group they’ve had since starting up four years ago. “We’re quite a bit better than we were in the last few years,” coach Patrick Paul said, noting Clatskanie’s tough road through their league in 2016. A 5-0 win over Portland Adventist Academy early, though, signals they could be on the rise after losing 2-1 in the same nonleague matchup last season.
Rainier (Lewis and Clark 3A)
Last year: 3-9-1 overall, 3-6-1 in league; missed playoffs
Coach: Diane Kadolph-Ray (third season)
Rainier could not be reached for comment.