So where does a team go after achieving total domination?
If you’re Jesuit’s girls soccer team, you move forward and never look back.
Last year, the Crusaders put together perhaps the greatest single season in state history, outscoring opponents 128-1 to win the 6A title and earn the No. 1 ranking in the country from TopDrawerSoccer and USA Today/United Soccer Coaches.
That came after they replaced seven players from a 2017 state championship team that outscored its foes 86-2 and was ranked No. 2 in the nation.
“Coming in last year, our motto was, ‘Write your own history,’” coach Steve Fennah said. “We had that because I didn’t want them to think we were following in the tracks of an awfully successful group, and they had to keep looking behind them all the time.”
Jesuit, which has won 38 consecutive matches, faces the same type of predicament entering the 2019 season. The Crusaders lost seven players and five starters from last year’s team, yet are ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today and No. 2 by TopDrawerSoccer.
“We kind of have the same theme every year, but in many ways it’s the same challenge these guys have to do,” Fennah said. “They have to form their own identity and run with it for another year.”
Their new look won’t include midfielder Katie Doung (26 goals, 35 assists in 2018), who is playing in college at Minnesota, where she scored twice in the team’s season-opening win. Duong has been called up to the U-20 U.S. national team.
The Crusaders also graduated two outstanding defenders in Rachel Hickey and Madison McClellan, who were integral in the team yielding just one goal last season.
But plenty of talent is back, led by University of Washington-bound senior midfielder Callan Harrington. She had 43 goals and 23 assists last season, including four goals and two assists in an 8-0 win over Clackamas in the 6A final.
“She’s fearless, a very driven player,” Fennah said. “She loves to take people on on the dribble. She should be a formidable scorer.”
The midfield also features senior Jaiden McClellan, who has committed to Army, and two highly recruited juniors in Maddie Koleno and Alison Sasaki.
“The workload is always shared, but Callan is certainly our main threat,” Fennah said. “It wasn’t like Callan was the go-to last year. Our quality in midfield should still be Callan, and certainly from Koleno and Sasaki there should be some goals. They might not be quite as prolific, but they will certainly score goals.”
The Crusaders have two goalkeepers who have committed to major colleges in senior Mary Votava (Notre Dame) and junior Olivia Juarez (Washington).
Fennah is counting on the maturation of his younger players to make up for what was lost in graduation.
“I think that’s the strength of our team overall is we bring more years of experience to the table,” he said.
The Crusaders will be overwhelming favorites in 6A, but Fennah said he is wary of teams such as Mountainside, Sunset, Summit, West Salem, Clackamas and Sherwood. Jesuit’s most tightly fought matches last year were a 2-0 win over Sherwood in the regular season and a 3-0 win over Mountainside in the state semifinals.
The team’s schedule also includes a Sept. 13 date at Seattle Prep, a 3A quarterfinalist in Washington last season.
“There are some strong teams out there,” Fennah said. “We’re going to have to be at our best. Other people want to come and beat you when you’ve been successful.”