With a smaller, less-competitive league, Astoria girls soccer coach Tim Fastabend is optimistic about his team’s playoff chances in 2018. Just don’t expect too much success early on.
The Lady Fishermen lost both quantity and quality to graduation last year. In addition to senior all-league players Claire Albright, Sarah Lertora and Haley Ranta, the major loss was Lexi Law, the Cowapa League’s Goalkeeper of the Year.
The long arm of the Law is now playing soccer at Multnomah Bible College, leaving Fastabend with a big hole in the net to fill.
“I hope we don’t get too discouraged after the first three or four games,” said Fastabend, entering his third year as the Astoria coach. “Because it will take us a little while to get up to speed.”
Four of the last five state champions in 4A girls soccer have come from the Cowapa League — also known as the “Conference of Champions.”
The Cowapa finds itself in a unique situation as the 2018 season gets underway. The defending league champion — Scappoose — is no longer there, as the Indians have moved to the Class 5A level. However, the defending state champion is still a part of the league.
Valley Catholic finished second behind Scappoose in the league standings last season, but the Valiants got hot in the state playoffs and won four straight, capped by a 1-0 win over Hidden Valley in the state championship.
Valley Catholic has a new coach (Kibwe Cuffie), and the Valiants have five all-league players returning.
Cuffie played in Trinidad, and is a former assistant coach at both Pacific University and Portland State.
After the Valiants, second place is up for grabs. Astoria finished third in the standings last year. The Lady Fish began the league season by winning three of their first four, but only had one win over their final six games.
“I would imagine Seaside will be better,” Fastabend said. “Tillamook was a lot more feisty last year, and it will be interesting to see if they’ve improved.
“We only have five teams in the league, so Banks, Astoria, Seaside and Tillamook — it could be any one of us on any given night.”
Despite five returning seniors, “it’s a lot younger team,” Fastabend said. “We’ll probably start two or three sophomores and a couple freshmen. We’ll be young.”
The top returner is senior Andrea Harris, an all-league player entering her fourth year on varsity.
Other seniors include Nara Van de Grift, Laina Humphrey, Claire Tetlow and Gracie Cummings, a state-qualifying sprinter who ran track two years ago.
“She gives us an athletic player who can run,” Fastabend said. “We’re not a big team — our average weight is about 102. So we’re banking on quickness, speed and intelligence.”
The junior class includes Abigail Albright, Taleigh Cole, Erin Grauff, Baylee McSwain, Elizabeth Whitsett and Brooklyn Zerangue.
The roster has five sophomores: Emma Biederman, Elle Espelien, Hayley Kelly, Meghan O’Meara and Shelby Rasmussen.
O’Meara is a transfer from Newport, and will likely start in the midfield, while Fastabend will carry two freshmen on the roster, Maddie Sisley and Karen Zuniga.
The candidates to replace Law at goalkeeper are McSwain and Rasmussen.
ASTORIA GIRLS SOCCER
Coach: Tim Fastabend, 3rd year
2017: 6-7-2 (4-5-1 league)
Playoffs: Lost play-in game at Philomath (0-6).
All-league losses: Lexi Law (GK of the Year), Claire Albright, Sarah Lertora, Haley Ranta.
All-league returner: Andrea Harris, Sr.