Will more numbers be the answer for the Astoria girls soccer program? It couldn’t hurt.

The Lady Fish have one of their highest, healthiest turnouts in years, and head coach Jerry Boisvert is hoping that translates into more wins on the field for the program.

THE LEAGUE

“I think Scappoose is going to lock it down, even with a new coach,” Boisvert said of the defending champion Indians. “They have tremendous talent there.

“I was real impressed with Banks (at the preseason tournament),” he said. “They’ve made a big turnaround. Between Banks, Seaside and Astoria, it’s wide open. It will be hard-fought, and those will be the deciding games in the league.

“It’s going to be a fun league,” he said. “The league is going to continue to get harder. The Cowapa wasn’t always that way. And there’s talk that we might pick up Valley Catholic next year.”

Astoria opened the 2012 league season with a 2-0-1 record, then lost their next three games and five of their last seven to finish fourth in the Cowapa standings, just missing the play-in round.

THE PLAYERS

There are more players, and there is also more experience on the field for the Fishermen.

Astoria is led by a trio of all-league seniors – midfielder Marina Oman, mid/defender Naomi Cain and midfielder Emma Englund.

Experience? They’ve got it.

“We could graduate 14 this year, or maybe higher,” Boisvert said. “The junior class is really small. Kaisa Johnson is definitely going to contribute. We hope to keep polishing her skills, to go along with her phenomenal athleticism. And Josi Mabry will get some playing time.

“Tiffany Stamp (Sr.) will join us as a backup keeper, or she will be the goalie and play in the field. I think we’ll be able to play fairly deep, and substitute with some real comfort.”

The sophomore class could be tops in the league, with Mykka Abrahams, Megan Bergeron and Taylor Mickle.

“Megan definitely has a chance to be a star,” Boisvert said. “She’s been working on her game all summer, and she will probably switch from an outside to a center-mid position.”

Astoria is solid in goal with senior Katie Russell in her third year as the starter.

On the back line, “there’s any number of people I can put there, whether it’s Tiffany, Zhoe or Kennedy Rub (both seniors), Emma Englund, Naomi Cain … Josi Mabry is a phenomenal defender.”

The talent certainly doesn’t stop there, as senior Marina Oman will be one of the top offensive players in the Cowapa, and Ani Graves returns for her senior year, after battling injuries the past two seasons.

Other names to watch include seniors Kjirsten Fastabend, Abril Romero and Chantal Simmons.

Last year, “we started to use Chantal’s athleticism and speed on the back line very effectively,” he added. “There aren’t a lot of people who give us the speed that Chantal does. She can run just about anybody down in our league.”

For scoring – Oh my! It’s Oman.

“Marina has been the high scorer for the team three years in a row,” Boisvert said. “Even when I played her in midfield. My desire is not to play her in the midfield in a defensive role, but to use her scoring skill. I think that will be matched with Taylor and Mykka, so with the three of them, I can substitute and feel comfortable with any one of them.

“We also get Ani Graves back, and if she stays healthy, I’m expecting Ani to be one of the biggest difference-makers that allows me to put Marina comfortably up front, and just let her play offense.”

All in all, with the larger numbers, “it’s pretty easy, with so many returning varsity players,” Boisvert said. “Normally there’s a lack of numbers, but this year is just the opposite. We have a great group, close to 35 or 36. I’m really pleased with that. It’s encouraging to see the numbers out, and know that you have a team and a following, and you’re no longer begging people to play.

“For me, the mantra this year is, ‘We have to work harder.’ We have to work on our conditioning. If they’re committed, good things can happen.”

The Bottom Line: Moving up in the Cowapa League standings.

“That’s my challenge,” Boisvert said. “We’ve hit middle-of-the-road in the league, we’re out of the ‘cupcake’ range – where we’re not the team to get beat on, where Astoria was for so long.

“We’re a 50-50 team, and to be a contender, to play really good schools – that’s what we have to prove, that Astoria High is here to play now. It’s a really big step. And we’ll start to see where we are when we play the OESes and the Catlins and La Salle. Those are phenomenal programs, and if we can at least hold our own and not embarrass ourselves, then the kids will have a sense to keep working hard.”

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