The Three-Way Split To Be Eastern Oregon’s Small School Soccer Queen

Welcome to Eastern Oregon, a spacious place where you will find everything from beautiful forestry to rivers, mountains, wildfires, and dust storms. The people talk different, act different, and a place where reputation and hospitality come before anything else. It might be all love when it’s done, but a heated three-way battle is underway in the 3A/2A/1A soccer ranks, as a trio of Eastern Oregon schools battle to be the queens of their region in this 2022 season. Six and seven games into league play, the top three are separated by a mere 1/2 game: Riverside, McLoughlin, and Four Rivers.

Where are these teams? Well, let me visualize you to this: McLoughlin is in Milton-Freewater, a small town approximately 30 minutes north of Pendleton close to the Washington border. Riverside is in Boardman, a town along I-84 about 25 minutes west of Stanfield and Echo, and Four Rivers is all the way out in Ontario, which is along the Idaho border and sits in the Mountain Time Zone. Lots of traveling for these three, not to mention the rest of their league, but this is pretty standard if you compete in Eastern Oregon.

The standings currently sit with Riverside leading at 5-1-1 in league, leading by a 1/2 game over McLoughlin at 5-1, and Four Rivers sitting third at 4-1-1 in league play. Riverside has split their season series with McLoughlin, losing the first meeting but avenging it last week. Four Rivers lost to McLoughlin and tied Riverside in their first meetings of the season, with rematches starting on Friday when they travel to Boardman to face Riverside. At this point, things could shake out just about in any way possible, but all three programs are effectively guaranteed a playoff berth via league automatic bids.

McLoughlin goalkeeper Ruby Jaimes makes a save against Nyssa, Photo: Elite Oregon Girls

McLoughlin is loaded up with program newcomers Madi Perkins, Rylee Herndon, and Kaedynce Herndon, who have all taken reins of the offensive attack, teaming up returning midfielder Caitlin Barnhart to make a solid offensive threat. Couple that with senior goalkeeper Ruby Jaimes and a good defensive cast, and the Pioneers have a balanced team looking to make noise in ways larger than conquering Eastern Oregon. First though, they must win a rematch with Four Rivers and be the biggest fans of them to beat Riverside on October 7th to have a league title on their resume.

Riverside is a feel-good story from where they started and where they stand now: Starting the season at 0-2-2, the Pirates have ripped off a five-game winning streak to hold a slim league lead over McLoughlin, with an opportunity to put a nail on the coffin when they play Four Rivers in their second meeting of the season. Over the winning streak, the Pirates have allowed only three goals, as opposed to the 22 goals they allowed in their first five games. Riverside has shown offensive prowess from a cast of characters, finding an identity and momentum that could carry them to the league title.

Defending league champion Four Rivers is once again the mix of things, touting an offensive attack led by sophomore phenom Ariana Abigail Nunez. The defense has looked solid most of the campaign, being enough to help the offense score enough to win games comfortably or pull out a draw, with the exception of a 1-0 loss to earlier this season to a solid McLoughlin squad. With an opportunity to avenge a tie to Riverside in October, Four Rivers could put themselves in the driver’s seat if they win out against league opponents.

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