The Ashland High School boys soccer team lapped the Midwestern League field during the regular season, so it’s only fitting that the Grizzlies did the same when it came to all-star voting.
Five Ashland players were voted to the all-MWL first-team, three were second-team picks and Declan Hinkley shared the league’s player-of-the-year award with Marist’s Jose Cardenas, the league announced Thursday. Ashland’s co-head coaches, Abdi Guled and Brad Roupp, were named the MWL’s coaches of the year, completing a sweep of the major awards for a Grizzlies team that went 7-0 in league play and 11-2-2 overall.
The MWL all-star team is selected by the league’s coaches.
“I know from working with this group of boys that they have put in the effort and the time and the hard work to earn that, and they deserve everything that they’re getting mentioned for,” Roupp said of the Grizzlies, who also had two honorable mentions. “These boys shared the ball better than any team that I’ve ever coached. They supported each other, they certainly had the best ball skills of any team that I’ve coached. And daily, they arrived at practice ready to work hard. They even chose to do recovery runs midseason just to improve their stamina for the playoffs.”
From the opening kickoff to the final whistle the Grizzlies dominated the Midwestern League in 2017, winning their seven league games by a combined score of 36-4. Hinkley, a senior center back, was a major reason why, but he had plenty of help, too, as teammates Ian Rinefort, Jahnoi Hall, Jade Boucher and Ben Lucero — all seniors — also earned first-team honors.
Ashland’s second-team picks were seniors Jaxon Witters and Leo Duetz and sophomore Scott Gustafson, and its honorable mentions were seniors Joseph Holden and Sam Inada.
No other team in the league had more than two first-team picks, and Ashland’s eight total first- and second-team selections was three more than the next best team, Marist.
Hinkley led a Grizz defense that allowed 14 goals this season while advancing to the OSAA Class 5A state playoffs, where Ashland was upset by Woodburn 2-1 in the first round (the Bulldogs went on to shock top-seeded Hood River Valley in the quarterfinals and fifth-seeded La Salle Prep in the semis, and will play second-seeded Corvallis on Saturday in the state championship match).
Roupp praised Hinkley as a team-first player who could turn defense into offense in a hurry and often did.
“(Hinkley) was fast and smart and played ahead of the game, understanding where the opposition’s next pass was going to go so he could get jumps on the ball,” Roupp said. “And when he had the ball, he nearly always delivered the proper pass to a teammate to jumpstart our attack.”
Witters, Ashland’s other center back, teamed up with Hinkley to form a formidable defensive combination for the Grizzlies, who produced three consecutive shutouts late in the season and surrendered more than one goal three times all season.
Roupp said Ashland played good enough to beat Woodburn in the playoffs, but the Bulldogs connected on a couple clutch shots to hand the Grizzlies a painful season-ending loss.
The setback shouldn’t detract from an overall great season, added Roupp.
“A moment that’ll always stick with me is when the whistle blew in the playoff game and we had lost 2-1, and I saw the incredible passion of every one of our players and was reminded of how much it meant to all of us,” he said. “They wanted it so bad. And they actually got it, in that this experience of working together and achieving so much success will stick with them, and the pain of the loss in the playoffs will go away.
“The memories of all the good times and hard work will stick.”
ALL MWL BOYS SOCCER
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR — Declan Hinkley, sr., Ashland; Jose Cardenas, sr., Marist.
COACHES OF THE YEAR — Abdi Guled, Brad Roupp, Ashland co-head coaches.
FIRST TEAM — Ian Rinefort, sr., Ashland; Declan Hinkley, sr., Ashland; Jahnoi Hall, sr., Ashland; Jade Boucher, sr., Ashland; Ben Lucero, sr., Ashland; Ben Camp, sr., Churchill; Harper Neubeck, so., Churchill; Jose Cardenas, sr., Marist; Ben Hakala, sr., Marist; Jack Ferguson, sr., North Eugene; Brandon Canchola, jr., Thurston; Josiah Sugai, jr., Thurston; Jackson Chalmers, sr., North Eugene; Connor Fitzpatrick, sr., Marist.
SECOND TEAM — Jaxon Witters, sr., Ashland; Leo Duetz, sr., Ashland; Scott Gustafson, so., Ashland; Eric Fox, jr., Churchill; Ben Cranston, sr., Crater; Keaton Cunningham, sr., Marist; Joey Weilbrenner, sr., Marist; Joel Garcia, jr., Marist; Paul Vargas, sr., North Eugene; Kaleb Davis, sr., Springfield; Jason Garcia, jr., Thurston; Alejandro Rodriguez-Arias, sr., Thurston.
HONORABLE MENTION — Joseph Holden, sr., Ashland; Sam Inada, sr., Ashland; Alex Karol, so., Churchill; Isaias Monjaras, so., Churchill; Jose Luis Benavides, jr., Churchill; Jayden Budrow, so., Eagle Point; Martin Hernandez, so., Eagle Point; Elvis Cisneros, fr., Eagle Point; Joey Braud, so., Marist; Peter Hart, sr., Marist; Grant Froehlich, sr., North Eugnee; Oscar Sigala, sr., Springfield; Matthew Dyemartin, so., Thurston; Caleb Pruitt, sr., Thurston; Tonathiu Corona-Garcia, sr., Thurston; Nick Clendenen, so., Churchill.
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.