TRI CITY — Shutout Pizza couldn’t have tasted any better to Madisen Castro and the South Umpqua Lancers.

S.U.’s senior forward and the rest of the team gathered around three massive pies from Pizza Palace last Wednesday, finally enjoying the fruits of pitching a shutout, 2-0 over Douglas, the night before. That victory also clinched the Lancers’ spot in the postseason as the third-place team in the Far West League.

“I came in thinking, ‘Let’s make this season matter,’” Castro said. “I was just hoping for the best and we got here.”

Castro scored both of S.U.’s goals against Douglas. She’s easily the team’s leading scorer, spiritual and emotional leader and best player.

“She leads by example and by word,” S.U. coach Kami Wright said. “She’s the same way in school. She’s taking college preparatory classes, she’s already earning college credits, she’s ranked No. 1 in her class, and it seems like she never lets down and never stops.”

Going into today’s home finale against Brookings, the brown-eyed 17-year-old had two hat tricks and three other games with two goals. Due to weather-related issues last Thursday, Castro and the Lancers (4-7, 4-4 Far West League) will close out the regular season at Marshfield.

She’s the one player the Lancers can anticipate being named all-FWL.

“We’re running into situations where other teams are thinking if they can stop No. 7, then they can stop South Umpqua,” Wright said. “And Madisen is doing a good job in these situations, both with battling through and having her own personal victories, but also with spreading the ball around and making passes.”

Castro wants to play on past high school and study physical therapy in college. She hopes to do both at Pacific University, but there are no guarantees for the A-student. Castro is in contention to be class valedictorian or salutatorian with an unweighted GPA of 3.97 and a weighted GPA of 4.4.

“That means she takes hard classes,” Wright said.

Leadership — just like scholarship — wasn’t an instant fit for Castro. As hard as she has worked in the classroom, she’s worked equally hard to be the leader the Lancers need.

South Umpqua has just two seniors on the team — the other is co-captain Julia Chadd — and there are three juniors. The rest are freshmen and sophomores, including freshman goalie Kyla Pires.

“Madisen has meant a lot to our team for four years now; a lot of our team is designed around her and how we’re going to face up with the opponent,” Wright said. “She’s our best player, but not only is she a talented soccer player, she is a leader on the team. She leads by example and by word.”

Castro, though, puts the credit for her leadership skills on her teammates.

“They’ve taught me how to be a leader,” she said. “Our team needed a leader and I’ve filled that spot since sophomore year.”

Wright uses Castro wherever she’ll be most effective on the field in a particular game. Against Douglas, it was as a striker; earlier this season Castro was on the wing and at midfield. Against North Bend — one of the highest powered offensive teams in the state — two weeks ago, Castro played defender, the role she’s most likely to take on in college.

She’s played defense before, in particular before advancing to high school. Before her freshman year, she played coed soccer.

“I think coed soccer turned me into a more aggressive player,” Castro said. “When I joined the South Umpuqa girls team, they were afraid to be aggressive and get loud. When I played coed, it was with my friends and a lot of them were boys.”

Castro fell in love with soccer after her parents had her try other sports. She played T-ball, tried Tae-Kwon-Do and tennis before trying soccer, the sport that has stuck with her for more than 11 years. She also played basketball through her sophomore year and ran track in middle school.

“I didn’t want to give up soccer,” she said. “As freshmen, we struggled a lot and we had a lot of flaws. We still do — we have things we have to work on, but seeing my team grow from the beginning of the season to now — it’s like we have grown so much and bonded so much and everyone has improved.”

Sports reporter Aaron Yost can be reached at 541-957-4219 or email ayost@nrtoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @aaron_yost.

Aaron Yost is a sports reporter for The News-Review he can be reached at 541-957-4219 or by email at ayost@nrtoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @aaron_yost.

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