Salem — It was only recently that whenever a Mountain Valley Conference team entered conference action, they would go to the right and redeem their dub over McKay, the doormat of the Salem-Bend conference. However, in their first four games of the 2021 season, the Royal Scots are showing that they aren’t the team they are defined as, and they’ll prove that they are no longer the free win that they’ve become known for being. Led by a firepower offensive attack and a significantly improved defense, McKay is the Mountain Valley Conference’s trap team of the season and they’re loving every minute of it.
From 2013 to this season, McKay won a grand total of 12 games over that span, barely enough to average more than one per year. In 2021, they already have 25% of that total and their longest winning streak in over a decade. So what has clicked over at McKay that has transformed this team? Well lets start with their scoring. McKay has 18 goals so far, an average of over four a game while subsequently allowing only one. Junior Nayeli Flores currently owns ten of those, leading the team and possibly the highest scorer in 6A up to this point. She is assisted by Mya Olson and Emma Quintanilla, who have four and three goals respectively. The offense looks smooth, they are tactically sound and are playing like an organized team, not a scrappy squad of misfits wearing the same uniform. This can be attributed to Head Coach Vicky Cruz, who is in her second season as the leader of the Royal Scots, and she has enjoyed success in her implemented system which has sold her players on its viability. When players believe in their leader and buy into her system, this is what turns programs around.
On the opposite end, the defense has done a good job protecting the net and transitioning the ball back to the attack in a timely fashion. While they haven’t been truly challenged yet by an attack offense like Sprague or Bend, its still progress for a program that used to be scrappy and fundamentally flawed on the field every night in and out. A defense that used to allow over five goals a game against their weakest opposition, then double digits with the toughest, this team doesn’t have those same indicators like the ones of the past. If their defense does half of what they are now once conference play begins, they’ll be the trap game that costs a team the conference with a single misstep or miscalculation. So what can McKay expect going ahead?
Well most opponents might take that 4-0 record for granted with the opponent quality, but the first true test begins on Thursday in McMinnville, a team that took #5 Sprague to their brink before falling in the final minutes. Plenty of looks for an offensive team like McKay, but also an equally tough offense to handle in the Grizzlies. After a winnable game in North Salem, the Royal Scots should be favored to win over McNary and Mountain View, with Summit and South Salem being gray area games. No one expects them to challenge Sprague or West Salem, but I wouldn’t count out McKay or write them off. I’m not endorsing McKay as a challenger to the MVC Crown, that still belongs to West Salem, Bend, and Sprague, but I am endorsing them as a disruptor to the pecking order of the conference, the team that will give problems and lay down a trap. Feel free to laugh at me, but McKay is no slouch and will be the team that surprises many going forward, maybe even enough to clinch a playoff spot…..
Footnote: The header image was provided by the McKay Program!