Eugene — Two years ago, Marist entered the 4A State Championship as the favorite against Woodburn, but were uprooted by the Bulldogs 1-0. This Spring, they entered as the favorite facing North Marion, but ultimately fell in penalty kicks for their second consecutive state runner-up finish. Now sitting once again as the favorites for the 4A State Championship, is third time really the charm for Marist? Well they certainly think so.
Their fall campaign has faced a significant hiccup, the loss of senior star Anna Watts to a torn ACL, a scoring threat that put fear in every opposing defense. However in her absence, the Spartans have had the emergence of Sophomore Cloe Chase, and the leadership of Senior Madison Fuller to help power the offense this season. They’ve been aided by playmakers in Paige Meador, Savannah Crawford, and Ella Braunger, among others. Marist has a resume that includes a dub over heavy 3A/2A/1A favorite Catlin Gabel and a lone loss to Top 5 5A team North Eugene, who has arguably the best defense in all of 5A. The ability to net goals and keep the offense firing in the absence of their star has been extremely crucial for Marist, who might have their best attack in the past three seasons even without Watts, let alone the damage they could do if she was fully healthy and on the attack every night.
Defensively, the Spartans have a top of the line goalkeeper in Senior Tessa Woodrum, who is aided by a tactically sound defensive group led by Senior Reese Fitzpatrick that works hard to keep the ball pinned to the sideline or in the middle of the field, giving Woodrum a clear bill of field to work with in front of her. Their game Monday against North Eugene was out of character for the Spartan defense, allowing the Highlanders to have more than a handful of chances to score, but still holding them at bay trailing 3-2 until the final minutes. The Spartans recovered on Wednesday with another clean sheet against North Bend, giving them seven goals scored to only one allowed against 4A and 3A/2A/1A opponents.
With their major challenges removed, Marist has the rest of the schedule to improve and get tuned up for another state playoff run this fall. Barring any kind of absurd circumstance, it is expected that they will finish undefeated down the stretch. Talking with this fun group, the Spartans were more than optimistic about their odds of winning the state title, showing the whole-heartedness of their mission to find themselves the queen of the 4A world after two consecutive heartbreaks to two teams located 10 miles from each other in Marion County. For the eight seniors and especially the one injured one, it would be the storybook ending to a successful high school career if they can finish it on top of the world, and this might be the best team of the three to actually pull it off.