By René Ferrán | Photos by Taylor Balkom
Southridge’s girls’ soccer team had nothing to lose in the Metro League kick-off on Tuesday against three-time defending champions Jesuit.
And when the Skyhawks left Cronin Field 80 minutes later, they still had nothing lost and ended the Crusaders’ winning streak in 24 games in a goalless draw.
“In any case, it felt like a win,” said Skyhawks keeper Julia Pinnell, who made eleven saves to publicize the shutout. “We knew we needed a great backline. It took all of our defense tonight. It was tough, but we persevered and held our own. “
The Skyhawks were also the previous Metro League team, taking a point from the Crusaders in a league game and beating them 2-1 on October 6, 2016 en route to winning the league title.
Southridge’s fortune soon fell. The Skyhawks have been 8-25-8 for the past three years, including a two-win season in 2019 where they went without a win in the Metro game for the second straight year.
This is a young Skyhawks team with more newbies (three) than seniors (two) on the roster. They survived a barrage in which the crusaders controlled possession for long stretches and fired 28 shots, hit the crossbar five times and missed a penalty.
“We came ready to play tonight,” said Pinnell. “That was a great game to start the season. It sets the tone for the rest of the season. “
Second goalless draw Crusaders haven’t won in over four years
The Crusaders extended their unbeaten streak to 59 games. Tuesday’s result was only the second time they didn’t win this run.
“We didn’t perform badly tonight and it clearly could have been a different goal line,” said Jesuit coach Steve Fennah. “The reality was that the last pass, the last shot just didn’t go in. Your goalkeeper did a great job, let’s not forget, and they have a lot of bodies in front of them. You did a great job. “
It was certainly not the result of a program that has been the gold standard for 6A football for the past three seasons. Some of that had to do with the condensed start of the season – training began for the six-week season on February 22nd, leaving the Crusaders and Skyhawks with only six training days to kick off Tuesday.
“We have to get going again,” said Junior Taylor Krueger, one of six starters from last season’s national champion. “This is just the beginning for us. We hope to do better in the future and I think we will. We’ll keep training, get better and better and as a team we’ll have better connections and that will show on the field. “
There will be no break in the rest of the Crusaders’ schedule. The next eight games before the peak week in early April consist of all playoff teams as of 2019, including non-league games with quarter-finalists Barlow and West Linn and a title fight rematch against Mountainside on April 1.
No renovation with 11 seniors: “Tonight was just the first step”
Fennah pointed out that with eleven seniors on the roster, the Crusaders have plenty of experience but are also looking to replace their team’s spine in the state career top scorer, Callan Harrington, who scored their 133 goals at the University of Oregon – and one pair of two-time all-state selections with midfielder Jaiden McClellan (San Jose state) and goalkeeper Mary Votava (Notre Dame).
“They are three high-profile Division I players so there will be adjustments and changes,” said Fennah. “Although this group has been together for a while, we have a number of different starters and kids to fit into. Tonight was just the first step.”
Fennah also attributed some of the lack of polish in the final third to the excitement of hitting the field for the first time in the past 16 months, comparing it to experience of a playoff game.
“You get so excited, so emotional about a game that you are not at your best,” he said. “They got in so emotionally tonight that they negated some of the quality we normally play with.
“But I don’t think these are just our high school kids. That’s every soccer team in metropolitan Portland, every soccer team, every volleyball team. The Southridge kids were just as excited to play tonight. It’s definitely exciting to be able to play again. We talked about that after the game. It didn’t go that way tonight, but we’re happy to be back on the field. “