After a 1-2-1 nonconference start, with the only victory by forfeit against Corvallis, it looked like a rebuilding year for the Ridgeview girls soccer team.

But once Intermountain Conference play began, the Ravens looked more like the team that finished second in the league and made the Class 5A playoffs for the first time in 2017. Ridgeview won its first six conference games to put itself in good position for a league title going into its Tuesday’s match against Redmond. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. under the lights at Ridgeview’s football stadium.

Going into the Redmond game, the Ravens (6-0 league, 7-2-1 overall) are ranked No. 6 in 5A, with 4-1-1 The Dalles, which plays host to the Ravens on Thursday, is the closet team in the IMC standings with four games to play.

Ridgeview’s first league match, a 1-0 Sept. 20 victory at Hood River Valley, gave the team confidence, Ravens coach Kyle Chown said. Ridgeview opened the second half of league play by again defeating Hood River Oct. 11, this time by a 2-0 score.

“It helped that we started off with a quality opponent like Hood River,” Chown said. “We knew we could jump right into the league”

The team lost several key players from the 2017 team that reached the state quarterfinals, most notably Aspen Jeter, a four-time team most valuable player and last year’s IMC MVP.

After the slow start, Chown said he was able to help this year’s team bring out its strengths as a possession-oriented group.

“We know that when we get the ball down when we play, we’re a pretty good team,” he said.

The majority of last season’s team is back, including senior defender Jordyn Buresh, a first-team all-IMC pick in 2017 who scored a goal in last week’s victory against Hood River.

“She’s really grown as a leader,” Chown said of the two-time team captain. “There have been a lot of things I’ve asked of her that I haven’t asked in the past.”

Other senior leaders include midfielder Mackenzie Stadler, a second team all-league choice last year and defender Madison Stadler, who was first team all-IMC.

Junior forward Sadie Benz has moved into Jeter’s role this season, Chown said.

“Losing Aspen is a big hole to fill, but Sadie has done a pretty big job of taking on the goal scoring for us,” he said.

Chown said he reminds the girls about their ultimate goal of winning the league title, something Ridgeview fell just short of in 2017, before the larger Bend schools moved on to Class 6A.

“I think last year was a good experience for them because it was the first time we were right there with Summit and Bend in our league,” he said. “The majority of the girls are back. They know what it’s going to take. They know there are no gimmes, and every single time they have to work hard.”

Even when the league opponents aren’t as strong as what they faced last year, Buresh said they make up for it with challenging practices.

“Here at practice, Kyle really motivates us to realize that, if we do get into the playoffs, there will be stronger competition,” she said. “And we’re not at the best we can be yet.”

This year’s team has been particularly close, Benz said.

“A lot of us know each other really well,” she said. “Even though some of us don’t really know how to play, we’re good at helping each other out.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

21468423