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Meet the new stars of Oregon high school girls soccer: 2023's breakthrough players

Which players around the state became stars this fall?
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The Oregon high school girls soccer playoffs kick off this weekend, and as teams prepare for the stretch run, looking to advance to Hillsboro Stadium (6A, 5A) and Liberty High School (4A, 3A/2A/1A) for the state finals, we asked coaches to nominate someone as their breakthrough player this season. 

Earlier lists of top players:

Forwards | Midfielders | Defenders | Goalkeepers

F Leah Benson, Four Rivers, junior 

Benson came back from a hamstring injury that limited her to start the season to lead Four Rivers, a community school in Ontario, to its first Special District 5 title in the fifth year of the program's existence, scoring 37 goals for the Falcons. “She is a great team player,” said Four Rivers coach Marcus Zacarias. 

F Bridget Brooksby, Roseburg, junior

Brooksby ranked among the team’s leading scorers with four goals through Oct. 10 as the team improved from zero wins in 2022 to three this season. “Bridget is a tireless worker and brings great energy to our team, constantly making hustle plays,” Roseburg coach Janelle Newton said. “Her speed makes her a threat offensively, and her work ethic forces turnovers from the other team’s back line.”

M/F Olivia Bunke, Banks, freshman

Bunke joined the program this year having starred for her club team, and she became an immediate contributor with 10 goals and six assists to help Banks finish third in 3A/2A/1A Special District 1 behind last year’s state finalists, Valley Catholic and Catlin Gabel. “Olivia is a gem, a potential D1/D2 player with extraordinary ball control and game readiness,” Banks coach Oscar Munoz said.

M/F Piper Carlson, St. Helens, senior

Carlson played more of a defensive role the previous two seasons, but Lions coach Angie Nichols moved her to central attacking midfielder (and occasionally striker) to utilize the skill that earned her the team’s Versatility Award last year. She had four goals through Oct. 10 while taking all attacking free kicks and corner kicks. Carlson also has earned the school’s Citizenship Award the past two years, and Nichols said, “she is the kindest, most caring and positive individual. She has more best friends than anyone I know.”

D Skylar Fasana, Valley Catholic, freshman

Fasana and classmate Mia Verzani have formed a formidable back line that allowed just one goal in Special District 1 play (four total) and has the Valiants entering the 3A/2A/1A state playoffs as the No. 1 seed. Each has scored three goals, and Valley Catholic coach Chris Thurley said, “they are almost identical in ability and production.”

F Briseyda Flores, Henley, sophomore

Flores had a brace in a 6-0 victory against Phoenix as part of a five-game win streak that helped the Hornets secure the Skyline Conference title. “Briseyda is one of our up-and-coming forwards,” said Henley assistant coach Tiffany Poe. “She is quick and knows how to read the field.”

F Kensey Gault, Ridgeview, senior

Gault is better known as a former state champion on the track who has battled injuries the past couple of years, including a broken leg and partially torn MCL from a snowboarding accident as a sophomore and a pulled hamstring last spring. She returned to the soccer pitch this season and scored twice for the Ravens heading into their season finale. “She is the one that other teams are always aware of,” Ridgeview coach Jimmy Kim said. “Technically, she is very good and comfortable with either foot, but I consider her our breakout player because of her work ethic, toughness and leadership.”

F Josie Grunerud, Central Linn, junior

Grunerud played her first two high school seasons on the boys team at East Linn Christian, but the Eagles joined a co-op this year with the Cobras, and she quickly integrated herself into her new team, leading them with 13 goals through Oct. 10 and helping them earn a first-round bye in the 3A/2A/1A playoffs. “Her speed and ball control make her a nightmare for opposing defenses,” Central Linn coach Wendi Farris said.

D Ciena Harmon, Tualatin, sophomore

Harmon moved up from the JV this year and became an immediate starter at outside back for the Timberwolves. “She is so fast, and she knows how to attack but also how to drop back and not get beat on defense,” Tualatin coach Kalé Dwight said. “She is incredibly reliable, and I never have to worry about her when she's in. She's that dependable.”

F Ava Hsieh, Oregon City, junior

When Hsieh arrived at camp this year looking to make the varsity for the first time, Pioneers coach Marshall Brewer said the staff was blown away, as she looked like a different player. “Her speed of play had increased, and her overall speed also increased,” he explained. She started the season swinging between JV and varsity, but by midseason, she’d entrenched herself in the starting 11. “She proved she needed to be on the field for us to succeed,” Brewer said. “We were a different team and able to attack teams differently with her on the field.”

D Hannah Jones, North Marion, junior

Huskies coach Ben Bonser started the season using Jones as his “12th player,” a utility player he could plug into the lineup wherever needed. It wasn't long before he plugged her into the starting lineup in a new back-three alignment, and the Huskies earned a share of the Oregon West Conference title and the No. 3 seed in the 4A playoffs. “She has shined and become a staple of our defense with her speed and tenacity,” Bonser said.

D Lily Karschnia, West Salem, sophomore

Karschnia plays center back and outside back for the Titans, leaving the field only when she sustains a knock before returning as soon as she’s ready. West Salem coach Hillary Arthur loves her versatility on the back line, winning aerial and 1v1 duels at center back, but when the opponent has a speedy winger, “Lily is able to match their speed, cut angles and delay the attacker if not dispossess them right away.”

D Janina Kraetschmer, West Linn, senior

The Lions enter the 6A playoffs having allowed the second-fewest goals (nine) among the 46 teams, with Kraetschmer leading the effort, starting every game at center back for the Three Rivers League champions. “She has been critical to our defensive success and has been a great leader on and off the field for our team,” said West Linn coach Madison Gellos.

F Charisma Johnson, Jefferson, junior

The Democrats played a JV schedule this season, but Johnson — a standout player for the basketball program — took up soccer last year and broke through this year, scoring more than 20 goals.

M Kasia Lopez, Clackamas, sophomore

Lopez overcame a concussion that sidelined her midseason to lead the Cavaliers in goals. Clackamas coach Kendall Rooney called her “a great representative of CHS girls soccer’s intensity and new culture.”

F Claire Masters, Tigard, junior

Masters dealt with numerous injuries that nagged at her through her sophomore season, but this year, she had a promising nonleague run (four goals) and helped the Tigers secure the No. 6 seed in the 6A state playoffs. “She has elite athleticism and speed and presents a number of problems for opposing defenders,” Tigard coach Scott Eggleston said.

F Libby McLaughlin, Marist Catholic, freshman

McLaughlin has hardly played like a ninth-grader in helping the Spartans (ranked No. 8 in Region VI by United Soccer Coaches) finish the regular season 14-0-1 as they look to defend their 4A state title. Her 24 assists rank third on the state's all-time single-season list, and she’s scored 24 goals. She tied the single-game state record with five assists in a win over Cottage Grove. “Libby has demonstrated elite speed, technical skill, vision and soccer IQ as a young player,” Marist Catholic coach Stefan Schroffner said. “She is already one of the best forwards in 4A, and she'll only get better as she continues to develop chemistry with her teammates.”

M Alyssa McMullen, Amity, sophomore

Warriors coach Andrew Dyer noted that McMullen has really come on during the second half of the season, scoring three goals during a critical three-game stretch that helped them clinch second place in 3A/2A/1A Special District 2. “She recently has been given the assignment of playing a new position and has been phenomenal in that role,” Dyer said.

D Rosalina Montes, Thurston, freshman

Montes quickly established herself as an 80-minute warrior for the Colts, rarely leaving the field and helping them earn a top-8 seed in the 5A playoffs. “She is quick and a very smart soccer player,” Thurston coach Benton Canaga said.

M Jaki Negrete, The Dalles, sophomore

Negrete showed off her versatility for the Tri-Valley Conference co-champions this season, playing eight positions in the attack and on defense.

D Lauren Pieper, Brookings-Harbor, junior 

Pieper entered the starting lineup this season after the graduation of three back-line starters and has anchored a unit that posted six shutouts and has the Bruins back in the 3A/2A/1A state playoffs. “Lauren has shown improvement every week,” said Brookings-Harbor coach Brian Carlson. “Our defense as a whole this year has been tested and risen to the occasion time after time. Lauren has had a big role in that.”

D Justine Sheets, Wilsonville, freshman 

It’s not easy for a freshman to walk into the starting lineup for a two-time defending 5A state champion, but that’s what Sheets did with the Wildcats, playing multiple positions along the back line and contributing to a defense that has posted eight shutouts entering the season finale. “Justine is a dynamic impact player who plays with a quiet confidence and high understanding of the game,” Wilsonville coach Alex Boehm said. “Justine is the real deal and one to watch over these next four years.”

M/F Annika Sirtori, Catlin Gabel, junior

Sirtori dealt with nagging injuries her first two years with the Eagles, but after healing from one that limited her early this season, she is back fully healthy and had three goals and an assist in her first five games — including goals in the opening minute of each half of an 8-0 victory over rival Oregon Episcopal. “She is extremely good in possession of the ball, has great vision and can finish,” Catlin Gabel coach Chris Dorough said.

M Hannah Smyth, North Eugene, senior

Smyth tore the labrum in a hip as a sophomore and spent the past two years undergoing multiple surgeries to repair the tear. Her countless hours in the training room rehabbing paid off this season, as she had three goals and 10 assists in the Highlanders’ first 10 games and helped them win the Midwestern League title. “She is one of our most prolific scorers but had to modify her minutes as she built her strength back up over the course of the season,” North Eugene coach Brandy Wormdahl said. “She is technically one of our most gifted players and is always finding ways to make others look good.”

F/M Lydia Stewart, Springfield, senior

First-year Millers coach Alyssa Hinojosa deploys Stewart on the right side of the formation as a winger or midfielder. She has played every minute entering their season finale and has a team-high five goals. “Lydia is a fighter and a hustler,” Hinojosa said. “She works hard on and off the field, in turn making her successful in anything she puts her mind to.”

D Justein Tido, Riverside, junior

Pirates coach Yvonne Torres noted that Tido “has grown a lot this season” for a youthful squad that has just three seniors, adding six goals and three assists in the attack while anchoring a back line that has posted seven shutouts and allowed 1.06 goals per game entering the 3A/2A/1A playoffs. “She is a player who is easily taught,” Torres said. “She is a strong athlete and does well academically.”

D/M Madison Wagner, Sutherlin, senior

When you have one of the state’s all-time leading scorers (senior Paige Edmonson with 110 career goals through Oct. 12), your defense doesn’t draw much attention, but Wagner has quietly led the Bulldogs to eight shutouts and a 1.07 goals against average entering the 3A/2A/1A playoffs. She has chipped in four goals and 10 assists. “She does not get as much credit as the forwards, but she is hands-down the best defender in the 3A division,” Sutherlin coach Miguel Carrillo said.

F Natalie Webber, Jesuit, freshman

Webber has seamlessly fit in with a veteran Crusaders group, scoring 10 goals with three assists through Oct. 10 for a team ranked No. 3 in the nation by United Soccer Coaches.

D Mattie Wolcott, La Grande, sophomore

Wolcott put the speed she displayed in placing fourth at the 4A state meet in the 400 meters as a freshman to work at outside back this season for the Tigers, helping anchor a defense that posted nine shutouts in 13 regular-season games and chipping in three assists. “She’s easily the fastest person on the pitch each game,” La Grande coach Chris Gianandrea said. “She’s a solid defender, but also lethal in the attack.”

M/F Evy Wright, Yamhill-Carlton, senior

Wright rebounded from an injury-fraught junior season to bring balance to the Tigers’ attack this year, scoring eight goals with five assists as they won the 3A/2A/1A Special District 2 regular-season title. “Her feet set her apart from the rest,” Yamhill-Carlton coach Mike Fetch said. “She is a dynamic player with some of the best footwork in the league, but it’s being more direct which has helped her break out this year.”

M Kendal Yazzolino, St. Mary’s (Medford), freshman

Yazzolino is another high-scoring freshman to join the Oregon high school ranks this year, scoring 33 goals with seven assists entering the season finale. “One thing that’s always stood out with her is her work rate and intensity,” Crusaders coach Martin Nelson said. “It really goes to show that drive and passion can lead a player to achieve great things, even as a younger player. I suspect it will continue to take her places.” 

Earlier lists of top players:

Forwards | Midfielders | Defenders | Goalkeepers