By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary’s young defense has stepped up to every challenge this season.

On Thursday, Sept. 21, the Lady Celts held Forest Grove, a team that had scored 19 goals in seven matches, to just one on a deflection in the 70th minute.

But missing two of their top offensive weapons, Izzy Haselip and Natalia Gonzalez, with injuries, one was too many as McNary fell 1-0 at home.

“This is the best offense we’ve played this year and the best possession team,” McNary head coach A.J. Nash said of Forest Grove. “I felt pretty comfortable for most of the game. West was good, too. They’re a little bit faster and a little bit stronger but this team they’re a little bit more skilled. Their forward and the way that they played with the tandem up top is going to give us some great film that exposed our lack of playing together more today than it ever has. It’s going to give us a great opportunity to use film and get their mind used to seeing a different formation and a different style of play.”

The Vikings didn’t produce many dangerous opportunities. A shot off a cross hit a McNary defender and deflected into the corner of the goal for the only score of the game.

“Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way,” Nash said.

The goal was only the second McNary’s defense, led by goalkeeper Sydney Snapp and sweeper Samantha Alfano, has allowed in seven games.

“Sydney has been our vocal leadership and Sam is one of the best defenders in the conference, even as a sophomore,” Nash said. “We shut down their attack in large part. I was very proud of what we did.”

Sophomore Maya Luscomb and freshmen Audrey Williams and Ashlyn Lyda have also stepped up.

“Ultimately, we’ve got a lot of depth,” Nash said. “I didn’t know what I was getting in their first year as players on the varsity level but from a talent prospective their growth has been exponential throughout the season.”

But with such a young group, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

“I’m really proud of their process but we’ve still got a lot to clean up before October,” Nash said.

Abigail Hawley, another of the Lady Celts goal scorers, tried to play through an injury but had to leave the game early. Haselip and Gonzalez are both expected back by October and could return as early as next week.

“I’d be excited to play these guys (Forest Grove) in the playoffs,” Nash said. “I think we match up real well against them with our offense back and our midfield back.”