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Valiants put four on all-state soccer team


by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Valley Catholic forward Ella Turkot was one of four Valiants to be named first-team all-state.

The first girls’ soccer state title team in Valley Catholic High School is deservedly reaping the riches of its championship glory.

A month after the Valiants beat OES in a thrilling 1-0 triumph in the 3A/2A/1A state championship match, Valley’s Sarah Connelly, Ella Turkot, Makenzee Cleveland and Amanda Carrera were all picked to the 3A’s first-team all-state squad.

In addition, head coach Kayla Crandall was selected as 3A’s coach of the year.

“The girls have worked so hard, and I think it’s something they’ve always known, but it’s cool that the state is recognizing them,” said Crandall.

Connelly was the Valiant’s playmaker extraordinaire at forward, scoring 19 goals and dishing out 14 assists for Valley. Connelly controlled Valley’s offense from the outside or the middle, and seemingly had a foot in every big play the Valiants made during the season. One of the Valiants’ top goal scorers as a freshman and sophomore, Connelly became more of a distributor in her third season.

She supplied Valley with pinpoint passes and helped set up forwards such as Ella Turkot and Reilly Blood for close-range goals that were commonplace throughout the season. Before the season, Crandall challenged Connelly to turn down the first shot and see if she could get something a little closer to the goal. The born goalscorer took the message to heart, and piled up the dimes as a result.

“I think her 14 assists are more impressive than her 19 goals,” said Crandall. “This year, she looked to get other people involved and put them in awesome goal-scoring opportunities. It showed her leadership on the field. She can get the job done herself, and also get other people involved to get some goals as well.”

Turkot was a season-altering transfer boon sent from Catlin Gabel prior to the preseason. A 6-foot forward with springs in her calves and a head that could thump corner and free kicks into the net, the junior added an unguardable variable to Valiant offense.

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Valley Catholic junior foward Sarah Connelly scored 19 goals for the Valiants, but it was her 14 assists that excited her head coach Kayla Crandall. Connelly got others involved into the Valley offense.

“She could win anything in the air,” said Crandall. “And, when we can win those in the middle of the park, it gives us a lot more opportunities for goals. We kind of became a team that could win balls in the air because of her, when in years’ past, I couldn’t have said that. She changed that mentality for us.”

Turkot was also great for team chemistry, gelling right away with the established Valiant stars, while bringing state championship experience over from her Catlin Gabel days. Turkot’s touch pass to Reilly Blood for the game-winning goal in the 3A state championship was one of many moments that’ll live on forever in Valiant soccer history.

“She had a great season, but in the playoffs, she came alive,” said Crandall. “Ella had a goal in the quarterfinals, three in the semis and then the assist in the final. She definitely shined and peaked at the right time. We knew what kind of player she was coming over from Catlin Gabel because she was a girl we talked about having to mark up on. But, she even exceeded our expectations this year.”

Cleveland was easily the fastest backliner in the state having won state track and field championships in the 100- and 200-meter dash.

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Valley Catholic senior defender Makenzee Cleveland was a stalward on the back end for the Valiant defense.

“She covered so much ground, and I don’t think we’ll notice how much ground she covered until next year when we don’t have her,” said Crandall. “I can’t be more proud of her and what she’s accomplished in her four years. I’m excited that she was able to get recognized at the end.”

But, Cleveland was much more than just a sprint champion lending her wheels to the pitch. The senior’s soccer sense and penchant for clearing balls at the most-needed time — especially in the state title game when OES put ample pressure on the Valiant defense — was epic during the championship run.

A captain and vocal leader, Crandall said Valley wanted to win state for Cleveland and send her off with a title ring.

“She’s the one everyone looked to in tough situations,” said Crandall. “She got the girls pumped up, and the girls respected her a lot for how hard she worked. They wanted that (state title) win for her, more than anything.”

With Valley’s ability to score at will at times, Carrera’s skill set sometimes got lost in the shuffle at goalie. But, make no mistake, Carrera was just as significant as her goal-scoring mates.

“We’ve known Amanda’s an all-state goalie for the last three years,” said Crandall. “Coaches don’t really want to nominate a freshman, but I’ve always known Amanda is the best goalie in the state. It’s just nice to have that validated by everyone else.”

Her no-fear attitude was never more evident than in the second half of the title match against OES, when Carrera careened out of the box and stifled OES sophomore forward Mickaelah McKinney-Griggs three times to stop goal chances.

“She’ll come out 1 v. 1 against anyone, and most of the time she wins those balls,” said Crandall. “A lot of goal keepers, that’s kind of their struggle. But, Amanda comes out fearless, and she takes care of her box. She has pride in that, and she doesn’t want to be scored on. She really stepped up this year and saved us a lot.”

The whole girls’ team has been treated like rock stars on the Valley Catholic campus with continual pats on the back, and constant congratulations in the hallways. The Valiants have relished their time in the sun, although all it’s done is make Valley want more as the team moves up to the 4A classification next year. Connelly, Turkot, Carrera, and state title hero Reilly Blood are all back as well as the countless underclassmen who chipped in this year.

Now, after two years of playing in state title games, Valley wants another, though it won’t be easy with defending 4A state champion Scappoose in the Cowapa League.

“They’re not satisfied with just one,” said Crandall. “We lose three seniors, two starters, but the rest of them are already talking about next year and making winning state as their main goal again. They’re excited for the challenge of something new.”