Neither the Summit girls nor the Mountain View boys were thrilled with the way their soccer seasons ended last year.
Both squads were No. 1 seeds in the 2011 state playoff brackets, both were league champions — and both were upset in the first round of the postseason, on their home fields no less.
Things have improved this season for both programs.
The Storm and the Cougars each play for Class 5A state titles Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium. Undefeated Summit (14-0-2) takes on 2011 champion Sherwood (14-1-2), while Mountain View (11-4-2) will try to unseat two-time defending state champ Woodburn (14-0-2).
“This year, it's a whole new crop of kids," says Cougar coach Chris Rogers, downplaying the motivation of last season's early-playoff exit in part because he graduated eight players from his 2011 squad.
“I've been getting a lot of crap from my friends because early on I was talking about this being a rebuilding year. But early on, we started doing things the right way in training. We talked about not becoming a black hole when the ball comes to you. Trust your teammates."
Relying heavily on players in their first year with the program — freshman forward Zach Emerson, exchange students Shu Akiyama and Takuro Nihei, and goalkeeper Levi Schlapfer, who had never played organized soccer — Mountain View struggled out of the gate. The Cougars went 0-3-1 in their first four games and were outscored 12-5 during that stretch.
But eventually the team that was breaking in nine new starters began to figure out what worked for them, ending the regular season on a six-game unbeaten streak that was capped by a 5-0 shutout over Class 4A Sky-Em League champion Sisters.
“What we did in that game was soccer poetry," Rogers says of Mountain View's win over the Outlaws. “When we got done with that game, everyone was kind of stunned by it. We just had a comfortable confidence after that."
The Cougars have rolled since their Whitman-like performance in Sisters, outscoring their opponents in three playoff games 8-2, giving them a shot at the Bulldogs, the preseason favorite to win a third straight state title.
“Our game plan is going to be pretty simple," Rogers says. “Attack the crap out of them. I don't know if I'll ever be (in the state final) again. I'm going to go 100 percent at it. ... We'll attack, get guys forward and put them under pressure. (Woodburn) has given up some goals. It might turn into a shootout, but I've got enough trust in our back line and keeper."
While Mountain View shocked everyone but themselves in advancing to the state final, nothing less than a return to Hillsboro would have qualified as a successful season for the Storm girls. Despite graduating two players who are now on Pac-12 rosters — Kristen Parr (Oregon) and Hayley Estopare (Arizona) — Summit has long had its sights on a second state title, having won the 5A championship in 2010. With junior forward Hadlie Plummer leading the offense and junior goalkeeper Rachel Estopare anchoring the defense — both have started since they were freshmen — the Storm have outscored their opponents 88-6 this season.
“I know that we're peaking at the right time, and that's probably all that matters," Summit coach Jamie Brock said Tuesday after her team's 3-1 semifinal victory over Corvallis.
Sherwood has not been quite as prolific on offense as Summit. The Bowmen have defined themselves with their defense, recording 10 shutouts this season while allowing just 11 goals in 16 games. Before defeating Willamette 2-1 on Tuesday in the state semifinal round, Sherwood had gone five games without allowing a goal.
“Sherwood's a good team, I'm not going to deny that," Brock said Tuesday. “I'm not going to claim (it's going) to be an easy game, but I think we're ready for it. ... Whatever Sherwood brings, Sherwood brings. It doesn't really matter to us. We've got to play for us."