Oregon’s top high school girls soccer players: Meet the state’s best defenders (2023)

Table of Contents
D Carmel Ashland, St. Mary's (Medford), Sr. D Sabina Bair, Banks, Sr. D Pheobie Beals, Mazama, Sr. D Maddie Boettcher, Pleasant Hill, Sr. D Maci Bowman, Barlow, Sr. D Emma Buchanan, La Salle Prep, Sr. D Lanie Cox, Henley, Sr. D Hannah Darrah, Mazama, Sr. D/F Caroline de la Motte, Wilsonville, Jr. D Josie DeLine, Barlow, Sr. D Lainee Derry, Sherwood, Sr. D Kendall Dryden, McMinnville, Jr. D Braxtyn Ellsworth, Hillsboro, So. D Ella Erickson, Tigard, Jr. D Caroline Fischer, Sherwood, Fr. D Abigail Fitzpatrick, Thurston, Sr. D Kiera Grant, Tigard, So. D Taylor Holt, Sherwood, Sr. D Kristen Gandy, Sutherlin, So. D Eva Grunkemeier, Jesuit, Sr. D Naomi Heredia, The Dalles, Sr. D Zoi Hicks, Centennial, Jr. Read More D Peyton Howard, Tualatin, Sr. D Elise Kim, Catlin Gabel, So. D Joanna Long, Forest Grove, Jr. D Melia Markel, Sheldon, So. D Rockette Marrington, Brookings-Harbor, Sr. D Maggie McGair, Grant, Jr. D Tayler McKillop, Sheldon, Sr. D Paige Meador, Marist Catholic, Sr. D Jordyn Minor, Forest Grove, Sr. D Grace Mueller, Catlin Gabel, Sr. D Emma Northrup, Amity, Fr. D Gracie Poe, Henley, Sr. D Alyssa Rios, Woodburn, Sr. D Ithzaly Rosales, McMinnville, Jr. D Gemma Rowland, Central Linn, Sr. D Maddie Russell, Banks, Sr. D Keara Saks, David Douglas, Jr. D Adrianna Sale, Nelson, Sr. D Crystal Sanchez, Riverside, Jr. D Katelyn Sanders, Beaverton, Sr. D Natalie Scheuneman, South Medford, Jr. D Marissa Scott, Brookings-Harbor, Sr. D Caitlynn Spencer, Woodburn, Sr. D Sophia Stiles, Jesuit, So. D Eva Thomsen-Marr, Lincoln, Sr. D Cassie Wedin, Wilsonville, Sr. Videos

By René Ferrán

This week, we’re taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Oregon high school girls soccer. Our second list focuses on the defenders.

How the lists were compiled: Coaches were contacted and encouraged to nominate players for these lists. Many coaches declined to respond; thus, these lists are not comprehensive. Let us know about any other players you think should be added.

D Carmel Ashland, St. Mary's (Medford), Sr.

Crusaders coach Martin Nelson described his starting center back as “one of the most dependable and consistent players on the field, and her teammates describe her as being just as dependable as a friend.”

D Sabina Bair, Banks, Sr.

Bair has started every game for Banks this season despite wearing a cast on her arm for many of them. Coach Oscar Munoz called her the anchor of the defense who “brings the balance to the team. Her game allows the team to gain confidence. Her voice is strong in the field and stronger outside of it.”

D Pheobie Beals, Mazama, Sr.

Beals provides a spark to the Vikings back line or in the attack when coach Dennis Garcia moves her to forward. “Pheobie is our little firecracker,” he said. “She has a motor that does not quit. She will make any team better.”

D Maddie Boettcher, Pleasant Hill, Sr.

Boettcher, a two-year starter at center back who was voted team defensive MVP by her teammates, anchors a back line featuring two freshman starters that allowed just five goals during the Billies’ 7-1-2 start, including six shutouts. She has committed to play for George Fox next season.

D Maci Bowman, Barlow, Sr.

Bowman is a legacy in the Bruins program, following in her older sister Gaby's footsteps, “so she bleeds blue and gold,” quipped coach Jay Jacobsen. He praised Bowman's energy and tenacity, calling her “a fearless player who will run through a wall for her teammates and coaches.”

D Emma Buchanan, La Salle Prep, Sr.

Buchanan made the all-NWOC team in two sports last season, receiving honorable mention in soccer and making the second team in basketball. She moved to center back this season for the Falcons. “She is one of the fastest players in the state, and her engine does not stop,” coach Andrew Frazier said. “She will anchor our defense this year.”

D Lanie Cox, Henley, Sr.

Cox received 4A all-state second-team honors last season for the Hornets, helping them allow just 15 goals during a 10-5 campaign that saw them advance to the state playoffs.

D Hannah Darrah, Mazama, Sr.

Darrah last season was an all-Skyline honorable mention selection in leading the Vikings to a second consecutive appearance in the 4A playoffs. Coach Dennis Garcia called her “a universal player for me the last three seasons” for her ability to move from either outside fullback to sweeper. “She is always focused to do things perfectly,” he said.

D/F Caroline de la Motte, Wilsonville, Jr.

de la Motte was on the roster for last year’s 5A state champion but has taken on a bigger role this year for the Wildcats. She also took home three medals from last year’s 5A state track meet (placing third in the long jump) and loves to surf and snowboard, counting trips to Whistler and Hawaii among her favorite adventures. “Caroline is a strong all-around player with excellent athleticism and a high work rate,” coach Alex Boehm said. “She is a tenacious defender and quick on the attack, contributing to our team across multiple positions.”

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D Josie DeLine, Barlow, Sr.

DeLine made the all-Mt. Hood second team last fall for the Bruins and committed to Weber State in the offseason. “Josie leads by example on the field. Her commitment and effort are top-notch, and she is an excellent defender for us,” coach Jay Jacobsen said. “She is a student of the game who is always looking to get better. I can really appreciate that.”

D Lainee Derry, Sherwood, Sr.

Derry is one of the few veterans back from last year's 6A quarterfinalist, making the 2021 all-Pacific second team and leading Sherwood to the conference title. “Lainee brings experience and leadership,” coach Natasha Cohen said. “She exhibits consistent excellence on the pitch.”

D Kendall Dryden, McMinnville, Jr.

Dryden missed last season because of injury but has come back stronger than ever, according to Grizzlies coach Karly Mingus, and become a force at center back. “She has the ability to find the ball at her feet given any play and battles continuously while in the game,” Mingus said. “Kendall has given the team opportunities to score and helps keep our team competitive and positive.”

D Braxtyn Ellsworth, Hillsboro, So.

Ellsworth, a second-team all-NWOC selection as a freshman, has anchored a defense that allowed just seven goals through nine matches this season, leading the Spartans to a 5-2-2 start.

D Ella Erickson, Tigard, Jr.

Erickson was an honorable mention all-Three Rivers defender during the COVID-shortened spring season, and she’s come out this season to anchor a back line that had given up just 12 goals through 10 games, helping the Tigers start 5-3-2 — bettering their win total of the previous two seasons combined. “Ella is the team’s defensive anchor,” coach Scott Eggleston said.

D Caroline Fischer, Sherwood, Fr.

Fischer is the only freshman on the Bowmen varsity this season, and coach Natasha Cohen said that she “has grit and demonstrates impressive talent as the youngest player on the team.”

D Abigail Fitzpatrick, Thurston, Sr.

Fitzpatrick made the all-Midwestern first team last fall in leading the Colts to the 5A state playoffs. This season, she's anchored a defense that allowed just six goals through eight matches with five shutouts.

D Kiera Grant, Tigard, So.

Grant stepped up this season to become a key contributor to the Tigers defense, helping them improve from 52 goals allowed in 14 games last season to just 12 through 10 games this season. “Kiera is a warrior, one of the fiercest players I have ever coached,” coach Scott Eggleston said. “She has no off switch and is the kind of player you would not want to play against.”

D Taylor Holt, Sherwood, Sr.

Holt made the all-Pacific second team last season, anchoring a defense that allowed fewer than a goal per game in reaching the 6A quarterfinals. “Taylor brings wisdom, guides our back line, and executes her defense with precision,” coach Natasha Cohen said.

D Kristen Gandy, Sutherlin, So.

The Bulldogs posted seven shutouts and allowed just five goals during a 9-1 start to the season, and Gandy — “a scrapper through and through,” said coach Miguel Carrillo — played a big part.

D Eva Grunkemeier, Jesuit, Sr.

Grunkemeier has helped anchor the Crusaders defense since her freshman year, when she was up to the task of marking all-state striker Nedya Sawan in the 6A final. Last season, she received second-team all-state honors for the five-time defending Metro champion. Despite drawing interest from several high-level programs, whenever Jesuit's season ends this fall, it will mark the end of her scholastic career — although she could play in the High School All-American Game (she was placed on the preseason Watch List). “She's a strong, aggressive central defender who reads the game well,” coach Steve Fennah said.

D Naomi Heredia, The Dalles, Sr.

Heredia anchors the Riverhawks defense at center back, helping them post three clean shots in their first five games — including back-to-back shutouts to open Tri-Valley play. “Naomi organizes the back line well and is a person her teammates can rely on,” coach Colby Tonn said.

D Zoi Hicks, Centennial, Jr.

Hicks debuted at forward for the Eagles during the COVID spring 2021 season, then moved to center back halfway through her sophomore season and received all-Mt. Hood honorable mention with two goals and two assists. She was named a team captain this year. “Zoi is a force on the field,” coach Kelsey Birkhofer said. “She is hard to beat and out-physicals almost everyone she comes up against.”

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D Peyton Howard, Tualatin, Sr.

Howard, a second-team all-Three Rivers center back last season, anchors a defense that allowed just nine goals through 10 games, leading the Timberwolves to a 7-3 start. “I trust Peyton as our center back. She really holds down everything and cleans up after everyone,” coach Kalé Dwight said. “She is so calm and collected when she plays, and she is a leader and captain on our team. She takes time to make sure that newbies on our team feel wanted and accepted.”

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D Elise Kim, Catlin Gabel, So.

Kim started for the two-time defending 3A/2A/1A champion Eagles last season as a freshman outside back and helped them post six clean sheets through 11 matches this season, with their only loss to 6A St. Mary's Academy in early September. Coach Chris Dorough called her “a tireless worker (who) is a gifted 1v1 defender and gets forward well from the back. She also connects well and has good ball skills.”

D Joanna Long, Forest Grove, Jr.

Long was a first-team all-Pacific honoree last fall, when the Vikings reached the 6A semifinals for the first time, posting seven shutouts and allowing just 18 goals during their 12-3-3 campaign.

D Melia Markel, Sheldon, So.

Markel is another product of the Thorns Academy who became an immediate starter as a freshman last season. This year, she's teamed with senior Tayler McKillop as central defenders to post eight clean sheets and allow just two goals during the Irish's 9-0-1 start. “Tayler and Melia work very well together and are the glue for our back line,” coach Phil Larsen said.

D Rockette Marrington, Brookings-Harbor, Sr.

Marrington has started at three positions during her Bruins career, finally settling at center back this season. Coach Brian Carlson praised how she “has worked to become a game-changer at defense for her team. She's a unique player in that she could truly be successful anywhere you put her on the field. She stays calm when under pressure.”

D Maggie McGair, Grant, Jr.

McGair, a second-team all-PIL selection last season, leads a defense that had given up eight goals (only five in the run of play) during the defending 6A state champion's 7-2-2 start this season. “She is the anchor for the defense,” coach Manolis Tjuanakis said. “Everything flows through her.”

D Tayler McKillop, Sheldon, Sr.

McKillop dealt with injuries last season but after a solid season playing club for Eugene Timbers FC, she has developed into a leader at center back for the Irish, who allowed just two goals during a 9-0-1 start.

D Paige Meador, Marist Catholic, Sr.

Meador came back last season from a devastating knee injury suffered during the COVID-shortened spring 2021 season to earn second-team all-Sky Em honors, finishing with a goal and nine assists at holding midfielder. As a freshman, she played striker for the first time and had six goals and 10 assists, and this year, she moved again to center back, where she had a team-high eight assists while leading a defense that posted eight shutout wins through 11 games. “Paige has been critical to the Spartans being one of the best teams in the state each of her four seasons,” coach Stefan Schroffner said. “Through her sheer work ethic and determination, she worked hard through physical therapy and was back playing soccer by last summer, and she will selflessly play any position and do anything for the good of the team.”

D Jordyn Minor, Forest Grove, Sr.

Minor made the all-Pacific honorable mention list last fall for the Vikings, helping them advance to their first 6A semifinal. This season, she has chipped in on the attack with three goals while playing solid defense.

D Grace Mueller, Catlin Gabel, Sr.

Mueller has been the heart of the Eagles defense the past four years, making the 3A/2A/1A all-state team twice — second team as a freshman and first team last fall — finishing with two goals and 10 assists as a junior center back for the two-time defending OSAA state champion. She is one of seven Oregon players on the High School All-American Game preseason watch list. “Grace is a true leader. She leads the team through her voice and actions,” coach Chris Dorough said. “Whether it's winning balls out of the air, timely hard tackles, or setting up her teammates, Grace is the best player on the field.”

D Emma Northrup, Amity, Fr.

Northrup is another freshman who has jumped into the starting lineup for the Warriors and played beyond her years. After a 4-3 loss to Riverdale in the season opener, they posted eight consecutive clean shots and allowed just two goals over their next 11 games. Coach Andrew Dyer called her “our defensive rock. She takes balls out of the air, supports extremely well and is a very smart defender.”

D Gracie Poe, Henley, Sr.

Gracie, a first-team all-Skyline selection last fall, has teamed with her younger sister, sophomore Emma Poe, fellow first-teamer Lanie Cox and senior Katherine Michaelis to form a solid back line this season.

D Alyssa Rios, Woodburn, Sr.

Rios made the all-Oregon West second team last season, anchoring a defense that posted 11 shutouts — including a 100-minute clean sheet in the 4A final against Hidden Valley that the Bulldogs won in a shootout. “Alyssa has been a key component of our defense for the last four years,” coach Andrea Whiteman said. “She is strong, fast and smart with the ball.”

D Ithzaly Rosales, McMinnville, Jr.

Rosales, like classmate Kendall Dryden, missed all of last season with an injury but worked during the offseason with her Westside Timbers club team to ready herself for her junior year. “Ithzaly is a very hard-working and competitive player that expects herself and her fellow teammates to play at their highest capabilities,” Grizzlies coach Karly Mingus said. “Her goals are set high, and we all know she will make strides these last two seasons with the high school to ensure she finds her place on a competitive college team.”

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D Gemma Rowland, Central Linn, Sr.

Rowland is a returning first-team all-district center back who anchored a Cobras defense this season to six clean sheets and only four goals allowed in a 9-0-1 start — already the most wins in program history.

D Maddie Russell, Banks, Sr.

Russell made the all-Cowapa first team last season as a midfielder, but this year, coach Oscar Munoz moved her to fullback, where she set the team's energy and pace during a 6-4-1 start, allowing just nine goals.

D Keara Saks, David Douglas, Jr.

Saks made the all-Mt. Hood first team last season, when she had four goals and an assist. Her coach, Amy McQueen, makes sure the warmup music before games is to Saks' liking, since “Keara plays best when she dances to the music.” She added that “Keara’s natural leadership, smart defending and sheer hustle make her the linchpin of our back line.”

D Adrianna Sale, Nelson, Sr.

The Hawks defense has allowed 2.2 goals per game over the program’s 1½ years of existence — a solid showing for a youthful back line anchored by the veteran Sale, who moved over with coach Michelle McHone from Clackamas two years ago. “Adrianna's tactical understanding and technical excellence of play are invaluable to our defense,” McHone said. “Her leadership qualities help keep our team connected on and off the field.”

D Crystal Sanchez, Riverside, Jr.

As a sophomore, Sanchez was a second-team all-state selection anchoring a defense that posted seven shutouts and allowed just 15 goals in 15 games in reaching the 3A/2A/1A quarterfinals. Coach Yvonne Torres pointed out that while Sanchez is the shortest player on the team, “she is also the mightiest. Crystal brings an upbeat energy to our team and is a very athletic and competitive player.”

D Katelyn Sanders, Beaverton, Sr.

Sanders started at center back for the Beavers' 6A finalists last fall and averaged what coach Jennifer Kirwan classified as eight-plus goal-saving tackles per match during their 5-4-2 start this season. Sanders has committed to Michigan Tech. “Katelyn is the anchor in the defense and leads by example with her dedication, commitment to excellence and overall organization of the backline,” Kirwan said. “Her abilities and situational awareness have been paramount to our success this year.”

D Natalie Scheuneman, South Medford, Jr.

Scheuneman — a two-year starter at center back who has drawn interest from Colorado Mesa University — leads a stout defense for the Panthers. They had seven clean sheets and allowed just nine goals during a 7-3-1 start this season. “Natalie holds our defense together,” coach Alicia Stormberg said. “Even when you don’t think she will get there, she manages to win the ball. Strong footwork, calm in pressured situations, and just a beast in the backfield.”

D Marissa Scott, Brookings-Harbor, Sr.

Scott is a two-time all-district honoree for the Bruins, making the first team as a junior in helping the Bruins advance to the 3A/2A/1A playoffs. She had 28 steals this season during their 3-5-2 start. “Marissa is the anchor of our defense,” coach Brian Carlson said. “She takes really good angles to the ball and uses her speed to turn away attackers. However, her greatest asset is her voice. She plays with a calm demeanor in the back and has gained the trust of those around her — she's truly a leader on the team.”

D Caitlynn Spencer, Woodburn, Sr.

Spencer is a three-time all-Oregon West selection, receiving honorable mention her first two years and second-team honors last fall, when she helped the Bulldogs post 11 shutouts. In the 4A state final against Hidden Valley, she converted a penalty in the seventh round of the shootout, which Woodburn won one round later to take home a second consecutive OSAA title. Spencer also serves as the school’s liaison on the city’s Parks and Recreation board and referees and coaches youth soccer. “Caitlynn is a fearless leader in the back and will do everything she can to ensure the other team doesn’t score,” coach Andrea Whiteman said. “She reads the field well and steps hard to the ball to help transition to our attack.”

D Sophia Stiles, Jesuit, So.

Stiles teams with all-state center back Eva Grunkemeier to form a stout back line that allowed just four goals and posted eight clean sheets during a 12-0 start this season. “An excellent young defender, Sophia reads the game very well and can play out of the back,” Crusaders coach Steve Fennah said.

D Eva Thomsen-Marr, Lincoln, Sr.

Thomsen-Marr transitioned to a starting center back role this season for the Cardinals and is among the team leaders in assists. She recently committed to Denver University to play lacrosse after a 51-goal season as a junior. “Eva is quick, intelligent, and can distribute out of the back line,” coach Lainey Hulsizer said.

D Cassie Wedin, Wilsonville, Sr.

Wedin was an honorable mention all-NWOC selection last fall for the 5A state champion Wildcats. With the graduation of two all-state defenders, she has taken on a leadership role for a young back line. “A team as young as ours really needed senior leadership, and Cassie is a four-year varsity player who brings that to the group,” coach Alex Boehm said. “Cassie is a dynamic outback that is reliable in 1v1 defending and dangerous on the attack due to her ability to serve long balls.”

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