For athletes, fall has arrived

Many high school teams see first action of season

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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photoMaddie Reynolds of Columbia River High School misses a header on a corner kick against Maya Nicol, 8, of Hockinson during Wednesday's season opener. Reynolds chased down the ball and scored after the miss, one of two goals in the game for her.

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photoTaylor Halquist, 8, right, of Columbia River High School fights for control of the soccer ball against Maya Nicol, 8, of Hockinson High School in a game Tuesday September 4, 2012 in Vancouver, Washington. (Troy Wayrynen/The Columbian)

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Good thing it was a day game for Columbia River junior soccer player Ana Delgadillo.

She just could not wait any longer.

"I was excited all day. Finally, we get to play a game," she said.

The Columbia River Chieftains, the Hockinson Hawks, and several other Clark County soccer programs played their first matches of the season Tuesday. There were volleyball matches, too. And -- FORE! -- yes, there was some golf.

Tuesday was the first day of competition for fall sports not called football.

"It's nice playing other people, other than just your teammates in practice," Delgadillo said. "Once you get in a real game situation, you get an adrenaline rush. You get so pumped up."

The Chieftains, by the way, kept that rush all day in a 5-0 win over Hockinson.

The Hawks could appreciate the opening match, even if it did not go their way.

"It was not pretty, but it's always good to get out and play," Hockinson senior Maya Nicol said. "It's a wake-up call for us, since we lost."

The match featured teams that each made the state playoffs last year and teams that have new coaches this year.

Filomon Afenegus is 1-0 as Columbia River's coach.

"The reason you work so hard is to lead up to this day," Afenegus said.

Just like his players, he prefers competition over training.

"You live for the games," he said. "There are enough practices. You only get a couple games a week."

Zack Goldfinch lost in his debut with the Hawks.

"It's nice to have a non-conference game so we can start to gel together and figure out which formations are going to work best," Goldfinch said.

He said this opener was bittersweet. He is thrilled to be playing but is disappointed with the outcome. Class 3A Columbia River is a quality program, but the 2A Hawks, he said, could have played better.

"It's going to take a little bit of time," Goldfinch said. "Once we put it together, we'll play well."

Heritage hosted the lone volleyball match played in Clark County on Tuesday. The Class 4A Timberwolves swept 2A Washougal to get their season started in the right direction.

"After practicing for weeks, you get kind of antsy," Heritage sophomore Dalaney Tuholski said. "It felt so great going out there. Our slogan is Hold The Rope. I felt all of the girls were holding the rope for me. No matter what happened, me and the girls are one."

Tuholski happens to be the lone returning starter for the Timberwolves. For a coach with a new team, non-league matches are crucial.

Chelinda Dettorre, in her 13th year as Heritage's coach and 25th year as a head coach overall, said she always enjoys opening night.

"All the fears, all the great hopes, they all mesh together," Dettorre said.

Every year, she learns something new.

Some things she was sure were going to work did not. Things she expected her team to struggle in, they excelled with instead.

That is why they play the games.

The small-school Panthers knew what they were getting into when scheduling Heritage. They did gain experience. No matter the result, at least they were playing.

"We're trying to get league ready," Washougal coach Mandy Busby said. "Our league is really tough. This was great. The girls were really excited. We'd been practicing for 15 days. Lots and lots of practice."

Now, it's game time.

There are plenty of things to look forward to this season, as well. The Seattle Times ranked Prairie No. 1 in Class 3A volleyball. The Camas girls cross country team is back to defend its state championship. The Ridgefield girls soccer team made it to the 1A state quarterfinals last year and has returned to Class 2A this season.

It's on now.

For Tuesday's winning teams, the opening contests were a little more fun. For those teams that lost, hey, it's just one game.

"It's non-league," said Nicol of Hockinson soccer. "We can only learn from this."