The Rangers battle through the loaded Tri-Valley League

The Estacada boys’ soccer team last played in the state tournament in 2010. The Rangers think that was far too long ago. Despite a bumpy performance last year, this season’s Estacada squad is confident in its ability to make it back to state.

“Making the playoffs is our biggest goal this year,” Estacada coach Johnnie Workman said. “Our league, the Tri-Valley Conference, has been the best in the state for a decade. A team from our league has made it to the state championship for the last 10 years, but we think we can compete and get to the playoffs.”

Estacada handled its non-conference schedule with ease last season, but league play was too much for the Rangers. They won three of their first four matches, outscoring their opponents 25-2. They then went 1-8-1 in Tri-Valley Conference competition.

To improve upon last year’s rocky league road, the Rangers will have to do it with a youthful group. Estacada is starting three sophomores and one freshman and has just three seniors.

Those three seniors, Austin Eaton, Alfredo Belman and Donny Wenlund, will be the fuel that makes the team go.

“Their leadership will be huge for us,” Workman said. “Being as young as we are, we will need their experience to help us get to where we need to be.”

All three have provided major contributions to the program during their careers, but they still want to give a little more. Belman and Wenlund played varsity as freshmen for the team that went to the playoffs in 2010 and want that experience one more time.

The Rangers looked like a team poised to make a run at the state tournament when they pounded Life Christian, 5-1, in last week’s opener. Estacada played with urgency from the first kick and never eased up.

“Our intensity made the difference for us,” Workman said. “We won most of the 50-50 balls and played with great effort for the whole game.”

Estacada followed up that effort with a long trip to Taft where it escaped with a 2-1 victory to move to 2-0 for the season. Just like last year, the Rangers are off to a promising start. They now anxiously press forward in pursuit of sustaining that success for the entirety of the regular season, and they hope, beyond that into the postseason.

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