Horizon Christian soccer coach Hal Ueland came into the 2001 season not knowing if he would have enough players to field a team.
He asked parents, students and other teachers to help him bolster a talented roster that lacked one crucial component -- numbers.
The Hawks' returning players insisted they would play every minute of every game if that’s what it took, but enough players came forward that the team was even afforded the luxury of a few substitutes.
All the preseason uncertainty proved to be nothing more than a motivator for the Hawks because once they finalized the roster, all they did was win more games than any Horizon/Summit Christian team in history and claim the school’s first-ever league title.
In fact, the Hawks ran away with the league championship and established a list of school firsts in the process.
They beat perennial league power North Clackamas (twice), placed seven players on the all-conference team, and completed an undefeated season with an astounding 13-0-1 record. The 1A Hawks also earned a first-round state playoff bye and the right to host a second-round game against Marist, a 3A school from Eugene.
Horizon played the Spartans tough, but were unable to match their speed and size, ultimately conceding the match 2-0. Marist went on to lose Saturday's state-title game 3-2 to Junction City. Despite losing its first match of the season, Horizon played Marist strong the entire game, giving the Spartans one of their toughest tests all season.
The Horizon players also came away from their state experience with a new level of confidence, realizing that if they can play toe-to-toe with a perennial 3A power like Marist, they can play with anyone, anywhere.
The Hawks may get their chance next season, as six of the team's seven all-conference selections will return, with a group of talented eighth graders moving through the ranks.
In the absence of senior league MVP and team leader Joel Stenberg, next year's team leaders will be defenders John Winters and Brian Stenberg, who effectively manned the back line all season; Paul Rovianek and Colin Franger, who provided offensive and defensive consistency in the midfield; and sophomore scoring sensation Cheyne Swick, who found the net a team-high 26 times this season.
Second-team all-league goalkeeper Aaron Griffin will also return as one of the league’s finest net-minders to give the Hawks stability for a league-title defense in 2002.
Griffin will be without his back-up, senior Hans Vande Bruggen, but he earned enough on-the-job experience in his first season that he shouldn’t miss a step -- or a save. Other key returnees for Horizon Christian next season will be defenders Dane Ueland, Elizabeth Nagreen and Andy Taylor; and midfielders John Harvey, Angela Petty, Chris Meyer, Britney Ballah and Danny Armerding.
Besides Stenberg and Vande Bruggen, the only other graduating senior this year is starting defender Jonathan Jensen, which means the Hawks should find themselves at or near the top for many seasons to come.