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For the last several decades, Toutle Lake has been without a girls soccer program. Its softball and volleyball teams have enjoyed longstanding success. But the school hadn’t expanded its reach to the pitch.

That began to change three years ago, when James Dillhoff joined the district as a social studies teacher and started the effort to bring girls soccer into the fold.

He’d been asking about the interest from prospective players since 2016, and received positive reactions instantly.

“When I interviewed for the job, I asked them about the possibility of starting a team,” Dillhoff said. “And they said ‘Well if you have the interest of the girls, we’ll consider it.’ So I went and talked to kids, and we put together a list of names — 30 girls.”

Another year passed without a team, though, construction being cited as a reason to hold off.

While the Ducks’ volleyball team entered the postseason, and the football team finished with the grass, the outdoor athletic facility was only used by a small group of dedicated track athletes.

“It was talking to people, word of mouth,” Dillhoff said. “It was grass roots. It was having the kids going to the athletic director and asking ‘Can we have a girls soccer program?’.”

Perhaps there’s nothing more persuasive than persistent teenage girls.

On Tuesday, the Ducks played the school’s first ever soccer game — a 7-0 loss to Napavine. It was a learning experience, Dillhoff said.

The team only has two players with high school experience, a pair of seniors who previously played for Castle Rock. Others have kicked around in youth leagues.

The athletic ability of Toutle Lake’s student body is proven. Five consecutive state appearances in volleyball, 11 state basketball nods over the past 15 years and seven straight appearances in the state softball tournament hold the evidence.

The Ducks will play a full-fledged Central 2B schedule this fall.

“It’s a very interesting mix of players, a really young team,” Dillhoff said. “There’s some girls who don’t have much soccer experience but do have athletic ability, so we’ll see how that translates onto the field.”

Ilwaco’s pitch will enjoy similar usage after a long dormant period. One of the most beautiful stadiums along the Washington coast is used only six times during the Fall.

Like Toutle Lake’s, the Fishermen girls’ soccer program has steeped for a few years.

After a late-winter school board meeting, Ilwaco adopted girls’ soccer, and then principal David Tobin hired Andrew Goodwin to head the program. Over the spring and summer, the roster grew to 18, and the program is off and running.

“It’s nice to have that many girls,” Goodwin said. “It’ll make things easier.”

A solid chunk of the girls have soccer experience, and like Toutle Lake, lots of athleticism.

For first-year athletic director Kara Powell, though the decision to start a girls program pre-dates her current role, it’s a good start.

“I’m looking at it as a good thing,” Powell said. “It’s giving our students more to choose from.”

Ilwaco plays an independent schedule this season against mostly JV teams as the Fishermen try to get their feet under them.

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Sports Reporter

Jason is a journeyman sports reporter who has covered the Golden State Warriors, Oakland A's, along with a heavy emphasis on the Oakland Raiders. He comes to Cowlitz County from Oakland, Calif. and is a loving father.

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