PENDLETON - Fielding a team with a group that has played together for four years, the Pendleton Buckaroos girls soccer team is hoping to leave behind its 1-12-1 Intermountain Conference record from 2003 and vie for a playoff berth this season.

The Bucks return 13 players with some varsity experience, 10 of which were lettermen. Missing will be the two top defensive players, Linnea Adams and Meghan Bermel, both lost to graduation.

"We're looking to fill a couple of key defensive positions," Bucks head coach Matt Yoshioka said. "We lost two of our veterans."

Returners for the Bucks will be center midfielder Shannon Dunfee and forward Kaydie Cresswell, both seniors. Both are two year starters playing their fourth year of varsity.

"I'm looking for them to show some leadership," Yoshioka said of the two seniors. "They have the positive attitudes needed to lead."

Also returning will be senior Jackie Herman, who missed the entire 2003 season with an ankle injury. Corrective surgery was done this summer and she was able to run with the team in conditioning drills this week but is not able to kick yet.

The Bucks new goalkeeper this year will be Alexa Humphrey. She will take the place of Marissa Hammond, who decided against playing soccer.

"I have personally coached most of these girls since they were freshmen, as J.V. coach and now varsity," Yoshioka said. "I know what they are capable of."

The Bucks open play Sept. 3 at the La Grande Jamboree.

Since the addition of The Dalles to the IMC, each team will play each other only once this season. This will give the Bucks eight conference games total.

"I'm excited because our girls seem to play best the first time we play someone," Yoshioka said. "I'm looking for a great season because we have a good group of seniors that have been together a while."

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