NEWBERG, Ore. - In a game in which scoring is at a premium, one goal can make a huge difference - Just ask the 2011 George Fox University Bruins, whose 2-12-6 record in women’s soccer of last fall included a school-record eight overtime games, another record of six ties, and 15 of their 20 games determined by one goal.
“Our final record was really deceptive; other than a couple of matches, we were right in every game we played,” recalls head coach Andy Hetherington, who has directed the Bruin program for a decade. “I thought we were solid defensively all year; all we needed was a little more offensive help for Mel up front.”
George Fox finished with a 2-10-4 record in Northwest Conference play last year, tying with Pacific Lutheran University for seventh in the league with 10 points each. Eleven letter winners and six starters return for the Bruins, three of them with All-NWC accolades of one kind or another.
The bulk of the George Fox offense in 2011 was provided by forward Melanie Gaither (Sr., Vancouver, Wash. / Skyview HS), who was accorded First Team All-NWC honors. She scored eight goals, and three assists for 19 points, tying for fourth in the league in goals and ranking fifth in points.
“Coaches in the league gave Melanie the recognition she richly deserved last year,” Hetherington declares, “and we hope for a repeat performance this year - and then some! There are not enough superlatives to describe her game. She gives us more than just pace, scoring, and skill - she wins more ball than anyone, can create as well as score, and is just difficult to contain. This year, she will be one of our captains and, hopefully, the tip of the spear on our attack.”
Hetherington will also call on returnee Halee Pyatt (So., Aurora, Ore. / North Marion HS) and newcomer Jordyn Brennerman (Fr., Tualatin, Ore. / Tualatin HS) as additional offensive threats. Pyatt appeared briefly in eight games last year. “Both Halee and Jordyn will offer support for Melanie to take some of the goal scoring pressure off of her,” forecasts Hetherington.
“We have really strengthened our midfield,” assesses Hetherington. “Our center will be a lot more fluid this year; we can now attack in strength and defend in depth from the middle.”
Esther Harder (Sr., Yamhill, Ore. / Yamhill-Carlton HS) returns at midfield, after taking the second-most shots on the team (33) last year. Notes Hetherington, “Esther looks great after coming off an ACL injury late last year; she has looked very sharp and we have great expectations for her final season.”
Perhaps the team’s most pleasant surprise has been outside mid Jamie Galbreath (Fr., Milwaukie, Ore. / Rex Putnam HS), who claimed a medical hardship year after breaking her arm early in the 2011 season. Says Hetherington, “Jamie came back and was head-and-shoulders above everyone in the spring, and has carried that over to this season. I am very excited about her overall play.”
New outside midfielders include Michelle Young (Fr., Sisters, Ore. / Sisters HS) and Ashley Baugh (Fr., Medford, Ore. / South Medford HS). “Michelle gives us speed and skill and is incisive in her runs,” observes Hetherington. “Ashley is quick, has great dribbling skills, and likes to attack the opposing defense.”
At the center mid, the Bruins can call on newcomers Jenna Prewitt (Fr., Battle Ground, Wash. / Prairie HS), a transfer from Clark College in Vancouver, Wash., and Becca Allen (F., Medford, Ore. / North Medford HS). “Jenna is a skilled playmaker and decision-maker with fantastic passing ability,” comments Hetherington. “Becca is an attacking center and great dribbler who likes to keep close control, which will open up the defense for our forwards to feed off.”
Amanda Perreira (Fr., Makawao, Hawai’i / Seabury Hall HS) gives the Bruins midfield depth with her versatility, capable of playing inside or out. Carly Ewing (Fr., Damascus, Ore. / Sam Barlow HS) was another pleasant surprise with plenty of drive on either side who was ticketed to see action both as a midfielder and defender, only to suffer an ACL tear a week before the opener that likely sidelines her for the season.
Anchoring the Bruins’ defensive line is sweeper Corin Beaudry (Sr., Wilsonville, Ore. / Wilsonville HS), a Second Team All-NWC selection who contributed two assists on offense as well. She will serve as one of the team’s tri-captains. Hetherington calls her “an elegant presence on the back line, playing with tremendous composure; she has an amazing ability to read the flow of the game.”
Also back in the back for the Bruins are starters Haley Downey (So., Gresham, Ore. / Gresham HS) and Cassidy Skillings (So., Molalla, Ore. / Molalla HS). Comments Hetherington, “Haley was solid in the right back role in her freshman year and looks even stronger this year after a fine summer with the Portland Rain club team. Cassidy was a walk-on surprise who has established herself as a quick, aggressive player.”
Molly Norton (Sr., Orange, Calif. / Orange HS) and Alicia Wong (So., Oregon City, Ore. / Oregon City HS) saw plenty of playing time as part-time starters last year, Wong chipping in with one goal, and will continue to be key contributors this season. “Molly can handle the outside middle as well as outside back,” observes Hetherington, “and is very good going forward, which helps give us width on the field. Alicia gives us good speed and control, and is a versatile player who can also handle the middle or forward.”
Hetherington is also high on newcomers Hannah Smith (Fr., Hillsboro, Ore. / Glencoe HS), Ashley Richards (Fr., Eatonville, Wash. / Eatonville HS), and Lauren Haga (Fr., Creswell, Ore. / Marist HS), the latter the younger sister of Bruin men’s player Steven Haga. “Hannah comes from a state champion club team; she is quick, smart and decisive, and should team well with Corin in the center back,” the coach comments. “Ashley will be a tremendous asset both inside and out, as she is strong with either foot. Lauren is our tallest player and will help strengthen the line as a central defender.”
Other defenders include Tenlee Holser (Fr., Hillsboro, Ore. / Liberty HS), Amanda Garoutte (Fr., Puyallup, Wash. / Graham-Kapowsin HS), and Ciara Thyne (Fr., Haiku, Hawai’i / Seabury Hall HS). “Tenlee can play anywhere on the back line, giving us great flexibility,” notes Hetherington. “Amanda is an intelligent player, smart on the ball, with great vision; she sees the whole field and distributes well. Ciara is second only to Melanie on our team in quickness, and gives us the luxury of playing her anywhere from defensive back to midfielder to even forward.”
“I’m not sure anyone else has a group of keepers as deep in overall quality as we have this year,” says Hetherington, pointing to honorable mention All-NWC keeper Alyssa Montero (Jr., Hermosa Beach, Calif. / Mira Costa HS) and rookies Ally Swanson (Fr., Roseburg, Ore. / Roseburg HS) and Brittany Coulter (Fr., Rogue River, Ore. / Rogue River HS). Montero, who will also serve as one of the team captains, led the NWC in saves for the second year in a row with 133 and was fourth with a .821 save percentage.
“Alyssa is a solid leader on the field, with good reactions and agility,” states Hetherington. “Ally is a tremendous physical presence with terrific range and technical ability; she and Brittany were both All-Conference in their respective leagues, and round out a terrific trio.”
Garoutte is also available to mind the net if needed, having played the position for her college select team.
“Our off-season goal was to develop some more offensive potency, which will be critical if we are to have a successful season,” Hetherington summarizes. “We have a stable defense, and are solid in the middle. If we can improve our ability to finish. then I think we can push for the top half of the conference this season.”
The campaign begins for the Bruins at their Austin Sports Complex home on Saturday, Sept. 1, with a 5:00 p.m. kickoff against the Oregon Institute of Technology, an NAIA team from the Cascade Collegiate Conference. The match will be part of a home doubleheader, with the George Fox men taking on the Oregon Tech men at 7:00 p.m. They have three other non-league games against CCC teams Northwest Christian University on the road and Evergreen State College and Warner Pacific College at home before tackling their 16-game Northwest Conference slate.