For the most part, the local soccer scene is the envy of many soccer associations around the state, including those in the Portland area.
The Lower Columbia Youth Soccer Association offers top-rate facilities and youth programs, and both the Astoria and Seaside high school programs have an all-weather playing surface.
So it's only natural that the Fishermen and Gulls — both stocked with players who grew up playing in the LCYSA — always seem to field competitive teams.
The 2019 fall sports season will be no exception, as both Astoria teams are on the rise, while the Seaside boys will try to regain their league title, and the Lady Gulls have turned to a former longtime coach to rebuild their program.
On the boys' side, Astoria and Seaside will be chasing after 2018 Cowapa League champ Valley Catholic, ranked fifth in a preseason coaches poll.
And the traditionally tough Gulls are not far behind, in eighth. That's a higher ranking than both teams finished with last season, when the Valiants checked in at No. 7, and Seaside was 10th in the final OSAA RPI rankings.
Valley Catholic (12-4 overall) lost an early-season match at Seaside, 2-1, then bounced back to defeat the Gulls 4-0 Oct. 11. Seaside's loss at Tillamook resulted in a league title for the Valiants, who ultimately lost a state quarterfinal game at Woodburn.
The Gulls also bowed out in the quarterfinal round for the second year in a row, in a home loss to North Marion.
Fans can expect both programs to be back in the quarters again in 2019.
“Valley is going to have some good players coming back,” Chapman said. “They're going to be a threat. They didn't lose too many seniors, but the guys they did lose were key. The young guys they have are strong. I think they will be good in attack. Not sure how they'll be in defense.”
Last year, Seaside scored more goals and allowed fewer goals than the Valiants.
In Cowapa League girls soccer, Valley Catholic was just one of many teams from the Cowapa which ended up playing for a state title in 2018-19.
The Lady Valiants were 8-0 in league play, on their way to an eventual 1-0 loss to Hidden Valley in the state championship match.
“One would expect Valley Catholic to be the team to lead the (Cowapa) league,” said Astoria coach Tim Fastabend. “After that, it will depend on how the teams develop. If the team puts the effort in at practice, we would expect to be in contention for a playoff spot. ”
The Astoria girls made the postseason last year, finishing with a 5-0 loss at Woodburn in the play-in round.
Having lost just a handful of seniors off the 2018 roster, the Lady Fishermen are taking aim at another playoff season in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Seaside girls' program has brought back a familiar name to lead the Lady Gulls, as Dave Rouse returns after stepping down after the 2013 season, after 20 years of coaching the Seaside varsity program.
Rouse has spent the better part of the last five years working with the Gulls' junior varsity teams, so he knows the personnel.
He also has a good feel for the Cowapa League race.
Former Cowapa League power Scappoose left the league last year, leaving the league with five teams — and second place up for grabs.
“The league is strong with Valley Catholic the clear choice to take first,” Rouse said. “Banks has taken second the past couple of years and should be considered likely to repeat there.
“But Astoria has a good group and should be able to challenge them for second,” he said. “And Tillamook will make it difficult on the other teams. After Valley Catholic, the league is competitive and we will hope to take advantage of that.”
Rouse is also quick to add, “I don’t like making preseason predictions. They usually come back to haunt me.”