SPRINGFIELD – If one looks at the Thurston girls soccer roster, the number of veteran players jumps out. If you watch them play, that experience shows even more.
The Colts, ranked fourth in the state in Class 5A, have six seniors on the team, and they lead a disciplined, talented, explosive, and fun soccer team that is poised to make an impact in this year’s playoffs.
“I think that it’s always exciting when you have a team that you know is capable,” said Benton Canaga, Thurston head coach. “You know that they can execute and make that happen, and start capitalizing on the success and try to just keep motivating and using that and going forward.”
That execution and capitalization was on full display on Saturday in Thurston’s game against No. 18 Eagle Point. The Colts blanked their Midwestern League foe 8-0, moving the team to 8-2 on the season.
The game started flawless for the Colts, as sophomore Richelle Ruhl opened the scoring only four minutes in off an assist from senior Kylie Jones. After the opening goal, Thurston continued to dominate possession time, but was unable to score on multiple opportunities.
The Colts eventually broke through again thanks to an improbable goal from senior Breanna Raven in the 29th minute. Raven shot the ball from an awkward angle on the right side of the box, but the ball hit the top corner of the goalpost and ricocheted in to put Thurston up 2-0.
Raven’s goal opened the floodgates as the Colts scored another two goals in the next five minutes to put them up 4-0 heading into halftime. Raven scored one of those goals off an assist from senior Ella Dzmura, and Jones had the other on a left-footed rocket from just inside the box in the 34th minute.
“I think the mentality was just to get after it and go hard,” Canaga said. “Once we really started connecting our passing, and playing wide, I think we really just started dialing it in.”
The seniors for the Colts carried the game the same way they’ve done all season. It’s something Canaga says makes his life easier.
“I know that they’re going to perform. And then, they’re very coachable, and they listen well, and they work super hard, and they’re very talented,” he said. “Let’s say a player has a bad touch. They know it, so I don’t even necessarily have to let them know … They just know what we need them to do, and they do it and they execute well.”
The Colts’ game was their third annual youth game, intended to provide young girls in the area a chance to interact with and watch the high school team play.
“The motivation is just to get the community excited,” Canaga said. “Make it exciting for the younger girls to show support with girls soccer and with the program itself.”
Looking forward, Thurston finds itself in prime position for the playoffs, but faces two Top-10 teams this week in North Eugene and Ashland. Wins in those games could clinch the Midwestern League crown, and set up the team for redemption after last year’s playoffs.
The Colts were ranked in the Top 10, and rode a five-game win streak into their first round playoff game at Pendleton. However, injuries and a poorly-timed flurry of Covid cases caused the short-handed Colts to fall 2-1 in the first round.
Now the Colts are back on track this season, and ready to take on the challenge in the postseason. Canaga knows the team is capable, but also knows it’s important to stay in the moment.
“Every coach out there would say their goal is to go to state, right,” he said. “But our focus is just one day at a time.”