By René Ferrán
Photo by John Davenport | For Eyes Photos
Grant girls soccer coach Manolis Tjuanakis isn’t sure what the ceiling for his team could be.
Tuesday’s opener against an Oregon Episcopal team that has won five of the past six Class 3A/2A/1A state titles but is undergoing a rebuild this fall didn’t answer many questions in that regard.
However, the Generals’ 4-0 victory at Delta Park’s Strasser Field also didn’t lead him to ask any new questions about his team’s potential.
“It was a very good start to the season,” Tjuanakis said. “The things that we’ve worked on in practice, they were able to execute today, and because we got an early lead, we could make quite a few changes. Despite making those changes, we were able to hold our shape and play good defense, and we got away without having an injury, so that was nice.”
The Generals, ranked No. 5 among Class 6A teams in the preseason coaches poll, jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first seven minutes, with senior Elle Frazier, a Portland State commit along with twin sister Liv, taking advantage of the Aardvarks’ inexperience in the back line to score twice and assist on Grant’s third goal.
“We worked really well together,” said Frazier, who got her hat trick eight minutes into the second half to cap the scoring. “We have a bunch of scorers on our team, but I’ve tried to make that a priority the past two years.”
Frazier and Tjuanakis rated the Generals’ performance a 7 out of 10, with Frazier pointing out the missed opportunities to tack onto their lead.
“We started well, but I think we could have put a couple more in the back of the net,” she said. “I think we’ll get there. We’ll get it down as long as we keep creating chances.”
Aardvarks coach Justan Wolvert knew his team, ranked No. 2 in 3A/2A/1A by the coaches in the preseason, might take some lumps in this matchup as they sent a squad comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores surrounding all-state seniors Nadia Schwartz in the midfield and center back Olivia Faucera.
“Even some of the players that we do have who are upperclassmen don’t have a ton of varsity experience,” Wolvert said. “This was a great learning experience for us. We’re usually doing to our opponents what happened to us today, so for us having to defend and compact the game and do things that we wouldn’t typically do is a great thing for us.”
Wolvert also saw his young team grow into the match, and while they rarely threatened the Grant net, putting only one shot on goal, they tightened up defensively after that shaky opening stretch, allowing sophomore goalkeeper Cameron Gabrielson to get comfortable, finishing with nine saves.
“There are times throughout the year where she doesn’t get a lot of action, so I think for her to have a game where she’s under a ton of pressure will do a lot for her confidence,” Wolvert said. “We did a good job in the second half of keeping the game in front of us and asking Grant to beat us from distance, and when we did that, Cam handles those things very well.”
He also liked how newcomers to the lineup such as senior Anne Hendrickson at striker, freshmen Mia Robertson and Nina Kaiser in midfield and Isabela Doumbia at fullback settled into the game and showed the potential OES will need to challenge defending champion Catlin Gabel and 3A Showcase champion St. Mary’s (Medford) come playoff time.
“I’ll take this loss all day because I think we learned a lot in a game that, in the end, doesn’t matter for us, but it does as far as our development as a team,” Wolvert said. “Sometimes, learning goes week to week or month to month, but in this game, we learned a lot from one half to the next.
“We’re still figuring out who we are and still moving players in and out of positions. It’s a trial by fire to a certain extent, so to get the experience against a quality team like Grant who put us in an environment where we had to get out of our comfort zone is great for us.”
The Generals haven’t reached a 6A state final since 2010 or the semifinals since 2012, but coming off a spring season in which they went 8-2-1, including victories over Sherwood, Tualatin and Mountainside and tying Mt. Hood Conference favorite Barlow, they have lofty expectations for this fall.
“Their hopes are high, but let’s just see how healthy we are going into the playoffs,” Tjuanakis said, noting that four potential starters sat out Tuesday’s game with injuries. “We just want to have a good preseason and go into the PIL season, try to win that one, and then go into the playoffs, where you know it’s one game at a time.”
Frazier, though, didn’t want to temper those expectations one bit.
“We’ve been working really well together in practice, and we have the energy that we haven’t had in the past necessarily,” she said. “We had a good spring season, so I think we’re coming back wanting to win a state title since we didn’t get that opportunity last season.”
Grant 4, Oregon Episcopal 0
First half — 1, Grant, Elle Frazier (Kate Ratanaproeksa), 2nd minute. 2, Grant, E.Frazier, 4th minute. 3, Grant, Ellie Matteri (E.Frazier), 7th minute.
Second half — 4, Grant, E.Frazier (Caprial Loescher), 48th minute.
Shots — OES 1, Grant 26. Saves — OES, Cameron Gabrielson 9. Grant, Abby Winkler 1. Fouls — OES 1, Grant 5.
SBLive Sports has launched a free iPhone and Android app featuring exclusive coverage of Oregon high school sports. You can download the new SBLive iPhone app here, and you can download the new SBLive Android app here.