Portland High School Lady Panthers soccer coach Ryan Goostree returns seven starters from last season, but Goostree lost a talented senior class, including three who have signed with colleges.
But with nine returning players with seven starters, Goostree is optimistic about the 2022 campaign.
“You can never replace players because they bring their own mindset and skills to each game,” Goostree said. “The senior class last year contributed a lot to Portland soccer and provided a great starting point for this group to launch from. So, I think we are at a good spot technically and tactically.”
Goostree said this might be the best skills group he has coached.
“The middle school team has a lot to do with the technical abilities of this group,” Goostree said. “They work together well, and I am able to rotate players in without having a drop in skill level.”
Portland has just 16 players on the squad this season. But sometimes quality outweighs quantity and Goostree has an abundance of talented players to put on the field.
The senior class has a trio of three-year starters back and one of the fastest players on the team.
“Ragan Borders has grown in skill over the last two years,” Goostree said. “She is one of the fastest players on the team. Lillie Clifton had started all three years and brings a wealth of knowledge and skill to the team. Allie Cranford has also started three years and has been one of the top scorers. Buk Mut is a three-year starter and is one of the best shut-down defensive players on the team.”
Those four seniors join juniors Launa Petty and newcomer Jasmine Escamilla along with sophomores Taya Totten and Mia Humphrey back to this year’s group.
“Launa Petty is one of our three returning defenders and will be the leadership and anchor defensively for us this year,” Goostree said. “Jasmine is playing soccer at Portland for the first time and will be an offensive weapon with good foot- and passing skills.”
Totten and Humphrey all saw lots of playing time as ninth-graders for the purple and white.
“Taya is an all-around great athlete that provides speed and depth on the defensive line,” Goostree said. “Mia is a solid defensive player that works well with our defensive line and provides flexibility for us defensively.”
Four freshmen will be in the rotation: Addalyn Barie, Madison Kirkham, Isabella Curtis and Sadie Clifton.
“Addalyn is a great outside defensive player who works well with the midfield and provides speed and touch to our backline,” Goostree said. “Madison adds speed and physicality to our forwards while also coming in as the leading scorer from our eighth-grade team. Isabella is a flexible player on offense and understands our offensive attack well. Sadie plays every position well, she’s a great defensive player who reads the field well, a great offensive player who reads defenses and takes shots.”
Goostree noted that the offense has changed some, but the defense will remain the same.
Goostree’s expectations for the team are growth on and off the field.
“As a team, we want to win games and have fun,” Goostree said. “Personally, I would like to see these girls grow together in friendship and take away some valuable life lessons on hard work and self-discipline.”
The district has a new team in Liberty Creek along with White House, White House Heritage, Greenbrier, and Macon County.
The Lady Devils are perennial favorites and Goostree points to several keys for Portland to be successful in 2022.
“We have to read the field offensively better and stick to our defensive principles,” Goostree said. “I have told the girls that soccer IQ is important this season. We are starting to see some benefits from that already.”