McNary midfielder Tessa Fisher (left) is one of the top returners on the Celtics girls’ team (File).
On Monday, March 1, both the McNary boys’ and girls soccer teams will play their first contests since Fall of 2019 — it will mark the first since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in March of last year that a McNary team will play in an OSAA event.
Needless to say, both head coaches are eagerly looking forward to getting their respective teams back on the pitch.
“I am very excited to have a season. The athletes really need this and I am so happy they get it,” said McNary girls soccer coach Lauren Brouse.
“I’m super excited, it has been a long time. I’m excited for my players, parents. coaches and community. Sports are a key component in our daily lives. This is a hope of normality,” added Celtics boys’ coach Miguel Camarena.
Brouse is entering her first year as the McNary girls coach, taking over for A.J Nash, who was at the helm for six seasons. With this season being so unique due to the pandemic, Brouse shared what it has been like to be a first-year coach in what has been one of the weirdest years in recent memory.
“What a year to take over a program. I try to look at it as a blessing because it is teaching me a lot about communication to my parents, athletes and coaches. I am learning a ton about who I am as a coach and what my expectations are for this program. With so little time this season, I really can only focus on a handful of elements but hey, my hardest season might be my first one so hopefully future seasons will be a breeze,” Brouse said.
The McNary girls team finished 5-6-3, (3-3-1) last season, just missing the playoffs. With their four all-leaguers graduating last year, and losing two of their top returners in Audrey Williams and Ashlyn Lyda — who elected to graduate early — the Celtics will have to rely on an influx of youth this year.
Since there will be no type of postseason, Brouse wants her team to focus on growth this spring and establish an identity of being the most well-conditioned team on the field.
“I want every single game to be competitive. I also expect my girls to always be the most fit on the field. We can’t always control being the best team technical wise but we can control being the most conditioned,” Brouse said.
Sophomore midfielder Tessa Fisher started last season as a freshman last season and will be expected to once again control the midfield for the Celtics. Sydnee Alfano, also a sophomore, joined the varsity team in the middle of the season last year and looks to be one of McNary’s top goal-scorers. Senior defenders Elise Ali and Caitlin Huffman will be expected to patrol the back line for the Celtics.
“We have a lot of returners that can have an impact. I expect Alfano to be a force up top. Fisher is one that will be key in our possession in the midfield and seniors Ali and Huffman have the experience we need to have a strong defense,” Brouse said.
McNary also will return four-year varsity players Kennedy Buss and Isabella Walker.
On the boys side, the Celtics finished last year with a 7-7-1, (3-3-1) record and qualified for the postseason — losing to third-ranked Lincoln in the first round by a score of 2-1. The highlight of their season came when they defeated fourth-ranked Summit 1-0.
McNary lost four of their five all-league players from last season, but still return much of their roster, many of whom are seniors.
“Most of them are four-year varsity players that are experienced, technically sound and multifunctional players. This group has (goalkeepers), defenders, midfielders and forwards. It’s important to have key players in each of these positions, this will help to create a good balance and combination with the young players in this team,” Camarena said.
Jose Martinez-Reyes was a second-team all-conference selection as a defender as a junior last season. He will be joined on the back line by fellow seniors Manny Avendano and Nic Heath. Eddie Martinez and Eli Petilo look to be two of the Celtics main goal-scorers and Miguel Orduna will take over goalkeeping duties.
Even in an abbreviated season, Camarena expects to see great things from his senior-led team.
“My expectations are the same as always. My program strives for excellence, I want my coaches and players to give their 100% in every practice and in games. My goals are to win as many games as possible, playing the right game. Time is an issue, but my players and coaches are working hard. The team will be ready,” Camarena said.
The McNary boys team kick off their season on Monday, March 1 when they play host to North Salem at 7:30 p.m. The Celtics girls squad travels to North Salem and will play at the same time. Although spectators won’t be allowed, McNary is in the process of providing online streaming of athletic events through NFHSNetwork.com.