Probably the best measuring stick for a team's ability is to play against the best.
The Hood River Valley girls soccer team doesn't have to wait long for that test this season. They're going to be tested almost every game.
In conference that includes 2000 Oregon state champ Centennial, as well as the formidable likes of Central Catholic, Gresham, Barlow and Reynolds, the Eagles won't have many nights off.
But these girls don't fear intense competition. They thrive on it.
"This team has shown a lot in the early season," fourth-year head coach Sue Farro said. "Our practices have been highly competitive, and the players are demanding excellence in every area of their game."
Farro has an experienced group of players, including seven seniors and nine juniors, and admires the effort and commitment by everyone on the team.
"Everyone has been showing up to every practice," she said. "This team is very focused and plays very well together. They've shown the focus and the intensity, and I believe winning will take care of itself."
Two players -- junior Becca Meierbachtol and sophomore Lisa Tedford -- have been active all summer with F.C. Portland, and have been training at a high level since January in the state Olympic Development Program.
Farro said both Meierbachtol, a center midfielder, and Tedford, a defensive stopper, hope to play Division I college soccer, and will be instrumental in leading HRVHS this season.
Other players who will be crucial to the team's success in the Mt. Hood Conference this year are senior midfielders Lindsay Benjamin and Mickie Halliday, junior sweeper Elie Meierbachtol, junior midfielder Jazzy Cohen, and sophomore forwards Acer Lopez and Anna Hidle.
What Farro likes most about her team is that the players always believe they can push themselves farther. They are a dedicated group that practices hard and plays even harder in games.
"Our goal this year is to make the playoffs," Farro said. "If we want to be in the top four at season's end, we'll have to knock off a powerhouse. But we all want it really bad, so I'm confident that all the hard work will translate into wins."
The team begins its quest for a state tournament berth Thursday at 4:30 p.m. against Aloha High School, west of Portland.