Sensational defense and goalkeeping powered the West Albany High girls soccer team last fall.
The Bulldogs, who finished 10-3-2 overall, surrendered just 12 total goals with seven shutouts. Five of the clean sheets were recorded in Greater Valley Conference play, lifting the Bulldogs to a 6-0-2 mark and the league title.
With keeper Kennedy Guilliot and defenders Elena Meza Wynkoop, Megan Miller and Nichole Yon all back in uniform, West has been even stingier during the 2017 season. The Bulldogs have yet to allow a goal in four matches, including Tuesday night’s 1-0 nonconference victory over Lebanon at Memorial Stadium.
“The girls in the back, we have been playing together since we were 10 or 12,” said Meza Wynkoop, a senior sweeper. “We have a lot of trust in each other because we know how each of us plays.”
Meza Wynkoop, a four-year starter, was a first-team all-GVC pick last year. Fellow seniors Yon and Guilliot, who is also a four-year varsity player, received honorable mention.
The nearly impenetrable back line allowed just three goals in GVC play a season ago.
“We’ve had a lot of consistency back there,” West coach Erik Ihde said. “There are some pieces that have been stable for two, three, four years, so we aren’t doing a lot of shuffling. And Elena Meza Wynkoop is just a great player and she’s a great leader.”
The reliable defense has kept West (3-0-1) afloat as it's battled early-season health issues.
Five Bulldogs, including junior Ruth Nash, are sidelined with injuries. Nash, an all-GVC honorable mention recipient in 2016, tore her ACL last spring and is out for the season.
The injuries have forced Ihde to get creative with his lineups.
“A lot of girls are having to play out of position,” Meza Wynkoop said. “But luckily a lot of these girls have played their whole lives and they are able to bounce back and be like, ‘Oh, I can play there or there, wherever the team needs me.’”
Freshmen Morgan Linde, Megan Adamec and Riley Ramirez have given the Bulldogs an unexpected boost. Linde netted an eighth-minute goal Monday night, her second of the season.
The freshmen trio has scored four of the team’s six goals.
“Getting the young ones up and having them make an immediate impact has definitely been a huge part of the story so far,” Ihde said. “What’s really been cool is that we’ve leaned on our depth early in the season. We’ve brought up some people from JV and they have stepped right in.
“The leadership has been great and the team chemistry has been surprisingly good considering some of the moving parts.”
Prior to opening GVC play at home next Tuesday against McMinnville, West travels to Willamette on Wednesday for one final nonleague tuneup.
The Bulldogs are shooting for another league title and a deeper run in the 6A state playoffs.
“We may have a little bit of a target on our back, but I’m not too worried,” Meza Wynkoop said. “I think we will come out strong and we will be sure to prove ourselves with a bunch of new players.”
The Warriors (2-2), who open Mid-Willamette Conference play Oct. 3 at Dallas, host Lakeridge next Tuesday.
Lebanon coach Ryan Christner describes his team as “a very cohesive group.”
“They love playing together and our communication has gotten better each game,” he said. “As a team playing together from front to back, this is probably some of the better stuff we’ve put together in the time I’ve been here.”
After slumping to a one-win season in 2015, the Warriors placed fourth in the MWC last fall and reached the 5A state play-in round.
Christner said the team isn’t gunning for a specific league or playoff result. Instead, the Warriors are focusing on day-to-day improvement.
“These girls want to get better each game, and the results are going to speak for themselves,” he said. “Where we finish is going to be the work we put in to get there. That’s their mentality.
“It’s a really great group to coach. They are hungry.”