By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
When asked why they were voted all-league First Team by the Greater Valley Conference coaches, McNary seniors Abigail “Sticky” Smith and Gustavo Villalvazo both pointed to their teammates.
“It’s kind of hard for me to believe I got First Team because I get so much help from the people around me,” Smith said. “Katelyn Tallon, she’s an amazing stopper. She makes my job easier on the field. I feel like part of me winning First Team is a lot of the work that she’s done on the field as well. And my outside defenders really made me stand out.”
Tallon was an honorable mention selection along with Lady Celts Natalia Gonzalez, Abigail Hawley and Jessy Shore. Kayla Evans was voted on to the Second Team.
Villalvazo credited his teammates for helping him return from a torn ACL the previous season.
“Honestly, I was scared,” he said. “I’m one of those players that usually goes all out but not trying to hurt a person. And this year pretty much the whole time I was just thinking about my knee and was pretty slow out on the field. The guys always pushed me to my limits in every practice, warm ups, everyday. They made me a better person inside and outside the field. It was my goal but it was also the team’s goal to have people on the First Team and with their help I got there. Unfortunately, I was the only one but I feel like other players could have been there as well.”
Bhavdeep Bains, Bryan Keo, Jose Vasquez and Javier Zepeda all made honorable mention.
Both Smith and Villalvazo said senior night was one of their favorite memories of the season.
On Oct. 20, the Lady Celts tied South Salem 1-1 with a goal by Hawley in the 67th minute, which was enough to get McNary a play-in game.
“When Abbie Hawley scored that goal against South (Salem) on senior night, I can’t even explain how amazing that felt,” Smith said.
The Lady Celts then shut out Newberg 1-0 to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“It was a really big deal,” Smith said. “It was like a gift being a senior and being able to make the playoffs for the first time in a few years at McNary. It meant that we got to play longer together, we got to have that hope that we were gonna go really far and then we didn’t but it was really exciting.”
The Celtics defeated North Salem 4-1 in their last regular season home game.
“One of the best games I’ve actually played for McNary,” Villalvazo said of senior night. “We went all out and in 25 minutes, we were up 3-0. Everything from defense to offense, we were on top of our game.”
The boys too won a play-in game and then lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s (All-GVC First Team) bittersweet because we didn’t make it as far in the playoffs,” Villalvazo said. “I’d rather focus on teamwork rather than individual. I wish we would have made it further in the playoffs.”
Villalvazo and Smith were both four-year starters at McNary.
Beginning as a goalkeeper, Villalvazo has played all over the field for the Celtics.
“He’s a joy to have in the field,” McNary boys coach Miguel Camarena said. “He loves the game. He loves his teammates. He’s a leader. He’s coachable. He wants to learn. He’s eager to always get better. He can score goals, on free kicks, headers, PKs. He was an amazing additional to our group.”
Smith led a defense that went from allowing 55 goals two years ago to only 16 this season.
“She was the rock in the center of our defense,” McNary girls coach AJ Nash said. “She was a stand out player because she really changed the direction of how we defend and she kept game flows. She was a strong leader in the back as well as a strong player. And she never stepped off the field. She logged more minutes than just about every other player on the team.”