PORTLAND — By 2017’s standards, Taryn Ries admits this season she has surprised herself.
Then again, in many ways, by last year’s standards, so has the Portland Pilots women’s soccer team.
Sitting midway through the back half of the regular season at 11-8 overall and 4-4 in the West Coast Conference (tied for fifth place), UP has turned the tables on a year in which it finished last place. And under first year coach Michelle French, Ries, a Ridgefield graduate and former Columbian All-Region Player of the Year is leading the charge.
Her 15 goals this season lead the WCC and are the sixth most across Division I. The team this year is more offensive-minded, Ries says, and she’s reaping the benefits.
“Everything like she’s trying to do for us, to push us, I believe in all of it,” Ries said. “And I’m very happy that she’s here.”
Ries, a sophomore, has two hat tricks this season and has been an instrumental part in the Pilots’ turnaround. She, in part, credits having a summer of preparation, as opposed to the previous summer, which she spent rehabbing from knee surgery.
“We were like on our back foot a lot and so I think just the mentality of having a more offensive minded like in games and just in transition I think that’s helped us out a lot,” Ries said.
Teammates credit her for her level-headed nature. In penalty kick situations, she’s typically the go-to. In past years, teammates suggested they were missing a composed finisher. Ries has stepped up to fill that void.
“She’s the one before game very calm always like just there to do business and I think she just does what the team needs,” Pilots junior midfielder Natalie Muth said. “She doesn’t let anything faze her.”
French acknowledged the offense working well, and Ries is a big reason why. Her ability to score in a variety of ways — by header, off a corner, penalty kick — has helped her succeed. That all comes from good instincts, French says.
“She reads the game exceptionally well,” French said. “Her ability to find spaces to get the ball whether it’s behind the back line or in front of the back line I think has been really good.”
Perhaps to those who witnessed Ries play at Ridgefield, her breakout season comes to no surprise.
As a senior, she scored 32 goals and assisted on 22 more. She was so good, she pushed Spudders coach Robbie Trimbo and an assistant coach to get their A-level coaching license, with the idea that elevating himself would only be fair to the best player he says he’s ever coached.
Ries still talks to Trimbo regularly and credits him with, at times, keeping her in check.
“Not even just the scoring goals, but just like the mental aspect that’s been like probably the hardest thing for me like over the years, even in high school,” Ries said. “I just getting my head a lot and so he can talk me down.”
Even during the heat of her own season at UP, Ries still keeps tabs on her former high school. It’s hard not to with Rylee Seekins and Ellie Walker, former standouts at Hockinson and Columbia River, on her team at UP. They will make jokes to each other about who is leading in the standings, and which team beat the others.
Though she’s away at college and deep in the grind of the soccer season, home isn’t far away. Ridgefield is just 21 miles away up Interstate-5. Ries says she’ll often see family, friends and former coaches in the stands.
Even in a season as strong as 2018 has been for Ries, she feels grounded in the success of the team and support of her family.
“I just know that they’re proud of me,” she said. “That’s all that matters to me.”