The Columbia River girls soccer team has five freshmen on the roster making significant contributions on the pitch. So the future is bright for the Rapids.
Turns out, the present is also looking pretty good.
Avah Eslinger scored on a breakaway goal in the 45th minute and the River defense notched its sixth shutout of the season in a 1-0 win over Ridgefield on Tuesday night at Columbia River High School.
“We have five freshmen on varsity, four of them got time today,” River coach Filomon Afenegus said. “And the fifth is going to be a really phenomenal player for us. So the future is bright. But it’s only nice when we can pick up results in the now. And that’s a testament to our seniors. Our seniors have been an incredible group of leaders this year. And I think that’s helped bring the freshmen along.”
One of those seniors, Eslinger, played a pivotal role in a key 2A Greater St. Helens League win over Ridgefield.
In the 45th minute as Ridgefield was setting up for an attack, Eslinger got a foot on the ball and deflected it to teammate Ivy Henderson.
Henderson quickly fed it back to Eslinger working up the right sideline. Eslinger beat two Ridgefield defenders and punched the ball over the Spudder goalkeeper for the goal.
“I went wide and (Henderson) played me a great ball,” Eslinger said. “And I just remembered that (assistant coach Ryan Callahan) kept telling me to drive and take it. And I’ve been practicing those shots before games and in practice, so it paid off.”
The win improved River to 9-0-1 overall on the season and 7-0 in the 2A GSHL to cap the first half of the league season. Ridgefield (7-2, 6-1) is in second place, followed by R.A. Long (7-2, 5-2).
“Our league is so tough, and I love it,” Afenegus said. “There’s no rest, but it battle-tests you so when you get to districts or state, you have seen everything, experienced everything. I think it’s why everybody in the GSHL 2A do well is we kind of beat each other up all season long.”
The five freshmen on varsity include some familiar last names for River fans — Maya Delgadillo, Remi Buckley, Makayla Hundt, Harper Lapinskas and Olivia Alvord.
But they also provide some valuable depth, which will play a big role the deeper the Rapids move in the season.
“We have a lot of freshmen that we are incorporating and several of them played tonight,” Eslinger said. “And I think they’ve really stepped into their roles, and we’ve had a bunch of people that have moved into different positions. But everyone has filled into their roles, and we’re really like making a great community here at River. So it’s been really fun so far.”