When the Lava Bears walked off the field after their first match this season, a five-goal loss to one of the state’s premier teams in Lake Oswego, the prospects of a conference title might have felt out of reach.

But that did not last long.

With three games left on the schedule, and after a 1-0 win at rival Mountain View on Wednesday, the Bend High girls soccer team is squarely in the driver’s seat to capture a Mountain Valley Conference title with just more than a week left in the regular season.

“I was not expecting this,” admitted Lava Bears senior goalkeeper Alexa Fritz about the team’s continued success throughout the season.

Bend, ranked fifth in the OSAA rankings as of Thursday and sixth in the most recent coaches poll, will enter Friday’s matchup against McNary on a four-game winning streak.

A header goal by senior defender Kaylee Nagel against Mountain View (0-4 MVC, 5-6 overall) in the first half off a corner kick kept the Lava Bears (4-0, 8-2) unbeaten in MVC play.

All that is standing in the way of Bend capturing its first conference title since joining the MVC in 2018 are wins over McNary and South Salem before ending the regular season against rival Summit, also in the hunt for a conference title.

“It has gone by quick, which is a bummer because I want soccer season to last forever,” said first-year Bend coach Alyssa Dalgleish. “The girls come out and work really hard. We are still in a pandemic and every day seems like it is up in the air and they are able to come out and adapt and put the effort in. It is paying off and we are seeing it in the games.”

Since the season-opening 6-1 loss to Lake Oswego, the Lava Bears have allowed only five goals through nine matches. Three straight games have ended in shutouts with the last two resulting in 1-0 wins.

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Fritz pointed to Bend’s third match of the year against Barlow, a 1-0 victory, which turned the tide on the season.

“We were expecting an insane team and we beat them,” Fritz said. “Coming off that loss to Lake Oswego, that win really boosted our confidence.”

Goals have not been easy to come by against the Lava Bears with Fritz in goal and the backline of Nagel, sophomore Maggie O’Sullivan, senior Bryn Freeman and junior Leilani Gassner. They have given up more than one goal in just two games this season.

Fritz’s save on a penalty kick midway through the second half Wednesday preserved the sixth shutout for the Lava Bears through 10 matches this season.

“Those clean sheets are important for morale,” Dalgleish said. “For a goalkeeper, that is their life so that was huge. That is really hard to do.”

Fritz ended up saving two PKs late Wednesday afternoon. After the initial save, an infraction gave Mountain View another crack at the equalizing goal. But just like the first attempt, a lunging save by Fritz kept the Cougars off the scoreboard.

“I was stressing. I haven’t saved a PK since like seventh grade,” Fritz said. “My heart was beating (fast). I couldn’t breathe even after the save. I thought she was going to get the second one but she went to the same spot.”

Now a conference title is well within reach for the Lava Bears — but the job is not done yet.

“We have to play our hardest and put it all out there,” Fritz said. “There isn’t much to it other than play our game and don’t focus on rankings or stats.”

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