SPRINGFIELD – The Thurston Colts athletic program is having a ball this fall. Every sport that plays with a ball – football, volleyball, boys and girls soccer – has made the postseason in Class 5A. For the boys soccer team, it’s the first time in the playoffs since 2007.
“They accomplished something amazing,” second-year Thurston coach Jake Bonnett said after the team’s 0-0 draw against Crater to end the regular season. “The guys have worked so hard, and to be in a postseason run – like, you should have seen us after our Churchill game – my guys looked like we just won the cup. So I’m super proud of them.”
Thurston’s scoreless draw was an example of why it made the postseason. In other years, the Colts might lose a game like this, the coach said. Not this year, thanks in large part to the growth of senior goalkeeper Carter Brooks.
“(Carter) has grown so much over the last year. This is the kind of game that we would have hated, because I don’t think he was quite there last year,” Bonnett said. “This year, he’s had so much growth. He earned us a shutout today.”
Thurston finished the regular season 7-4-3 and 4-1-1 in Midwestern League play, good enough to finish second in the league. While Bonnett ended the 15-season streak of missed playoffs in his second year, he’s quick to praise others.
“We can sit here and say that I came in, and maybe made some big waves. I didn’t, I hired great assistant coaches, I had six coaches on the bench, including myself. And the guys have just put in the work, 100% of the credit has to go to them,” Bonnett said. “Every single one of these guys, even guys that aren’t getting any minutes in games, they put everything they can into the classroom, they put everything they can into coming out and playing really good soccer.”
The No. 12 Colts travel to No. 5 Corvallis on Wednesday. Thurston had 8 of its 14 games this season on the road, though, and according to Bonnett, “We come off the bus ready to go every day. And it doesn’t matter who we play.”
On the girls soccer side, a 3-1 win over Crater just before the boys game secured Thurston its third straight postseason. The Colts finished 8-4-3, and 5-1 in league play to grab second behind No. 3 North Eugene. An even more impressive accomplishment considering Thurston lost six senior starters from last year’s team.
“I think we have really great assistant coaches, and the girls listen well, and they’re very coachable. We’ve put some girls in different spots and moved some things around, but the biggest thing that these girls are willing to do is work hard,” said Thurston coach Benton Canaga. “We did lose some great seniors last year, but these girls really stepped up this year … so we’re really happy with this team this year.”
Thurston’s only league loss was a last-minute 2-1 loss against North Eugene, so the team knows it can compete with the best in the state – especially this late in the season.
“Preseason tells us a lot. We try to hang on in preseason, and then when we get to league, it’s just all those little improvements,” Canaga said. “We always seem to improve as the season goes on, which is exciting.”
Thurston went into the game against Crater ranked No. 9 and unsure if it would host a first-round playoff game. By the time the brackets were released, though, the Colts had jumped up to No. 6. Thurston hosts No. 11 Silverton on Tuesday – after The Chronicle print deadline – with a chance for a rematch with North Eugene in the quarters on Saturday if both teams win.
“We are definitely a team that plays with our opponents. So anyone moving forward is going to be tough,” Canaga said. “I’m excited for them to play tough, play a good game, and play hard.”