Ask Issaquah girls soccer coach Tom Bunnell about the secret to winning, and he’ll provide a simple answer: Team unity.
“That’s been a major part of our success,” he said. “And if they don’t (get along) they probably won’t be on this team. That’s something that we’ll never let go away.”
Over the past four years, Bunnell’s entire tenure as girls head coach, the Eagles have sported a 75-5-1 record and claimed three 3A state championships, including consecutive titles in 2006 and 2007.
With a new season on the horizon, he admitted the ultimate goal is to get another. But Bunnell realizes it won’t be an easy task. Gone are five seniors from last year’s state championship team, including All-American midfielder and University of Washington recruit Kate Deines. In addition, the Eagles move into the KingCo 4A, a league that is quite possibly the toughest division in the state. Along with defending 4A champion Eastlake, sits 2006 champion Woodinville and other recent state participants Lake Washington, Redmond and Skyline.
“That’s just a product of the area,” Bunnell said. “I’d be very surprised if the state champion didn’t come out of KingCo.”
While the challenges loom large, Bunnell likes what he sees as he enters his fifth year. The Eagles return their entire defensive line to the field, including senior sweeper Sharon Davis, senior Jaci Belur, senior Haida Ikeda, senior Hannah McGraw and junior Kelsey Ford. The team also brings back senior goalkeeper Nicole Eddings, who has virtually shut down opponents in the last two state championship runs.
“She’s one of the top goalkeepers in the state,” Bunnell said. “She’s only been scored on nine times in two years.”
On the offensive front, Issaquah also appears strong. Senior forward Molly Gottlieb has contributed double-digit goals in her last three years, including 13 last season. Junior Kristen Maris will join her up front, along with junior Kaley Allison and sophomore Margaret Rauch. Issaquah also returns a balanced core to the midfield to fill in for the departed Deines, including senior Cara Hubbard, senior Ali Leale and junior Lindsay Stoll.
“That’s one of those things that you lose a player like Kate (Deines), you lose that dynamic player, but you also probably gain more balance on the field.”
Issaquah begins its season at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at Lakeside. They follow that up with three more tough non-league games against Bellevue, Seattle Prep and Tualatin, Ore.
“We’re tuning up with some very good teams,” Bunnell said. “We made a point to make that happen.”
Issaquah begins its league schedule at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18 against rival Skyline.
Last season was one for the ages.
A flawless 19-0 record, capped off with a 2-1 shootout victory over Todd Beamer to claim the class 4A state championship.
But Eastlake girls soccer coach Chuck Krieble doesn’t want to dwell on what was — he wants his team to look ahead.
“I don’t want to start the season talking about last season,” he said.
Krieble has the Wolves focused on the task at hand, a newly formed KingCo 4A division that now features 2007 class 3A champion Issaquah as well as Sammamish neighbor Skyline.
And returning a large chunk of last year’s roster, the goal remains the same.
“I don’t think you can be where you were last year and have any question as to where we want to go this year,” he said.
Eastlake brings back very key elements from last season, including five of six players who contributed double-digit point totals, or combined goals and assists. Leading that group are senior forward Mackenzie Garrett and junior midfielder Lindsay Elston, who had 14 points apiece. Garrett had eight goals and six assists and Elston had five goals and nine assists.
Also returning is junior midfielder Allie Beahan (five goals, six assists), junior midfielder/forward Emily Hurd (seven goals, three assists) and junior midfielder and leading goal scorer, Kory Spotts (10 goals).
Krieble said he didn’t want to single out players because the team has so much depth, but he noted that Garrett, along with senior midfielder Kristin Dorr and senior defender Diana Pollock, will be team captains this season.
“They are there for a reason,” he said. “They’re seniors, they’ve proven themselves as the steady, reliable players who do the little things. I asked them to lead by example, and I asked them to make decisions with the girls, for the girls.”
Other key components returning from last year’s team include senior goalkeeper Shelby Nilsen, senior forward Emma Levy, junior defender Courtney Pixler and sophomore midfielder Ann Heine.
Krieble hopes that with the solid core of returners along with an incoming crop of sophomores, the Wolves will draw some support this season — especially with the realigned league.
“We better see those stands full,” he said. “Especially with Issaquah and Skyline, because those are all girls that see each other year-round on the club teams — and probably half the parents know the other half of parents in the other programs.”
Eastlake kicks off its 2008 campaign at 5 p.m. tomorrow, Sept. 6 at home against non-league Mercer Island.
Skyline lost some key components last season, but fifth-year head coach Don Braman is hopeful the Spartans will be able to make some noise in the newly aligned KingCo 4A during 2008.
“Despite the fact that we have only three seniors, there is the feeling that we will be a competitive team in the league,” he said.
Skyline finished 15-4 overall last year and just missed out on the state playoffs, losing to Holy Names in a shootout in a winner-to-state game.
Gone are eight seniors, including goalkeeper Kristin Abbott and midfielders Cassie Villnow and University of Florida recruit McKenzie Barney.
Skyline does return three seniors, including first-team all-KingCo forward Kiara Williams and defenders Mindy Nation and Christina Enyeart. Williams led the team with eight goals and five assists. Skyline also returns junior midfielder Anna Morgan, who had five goals and eight assists, as well as junior midfielder Coral Anderson, who scored all six of her goals in consecutive games. Other returners include junior goalkeeper Jill Stika, junior defender Kayla Shim and sophomore midfielder Madi Barney. Newcomers expected to make immediate impacts are freshmen goalkeeper Christina Vargas and sophomore midfielder Alicia Connors.
Braman said he knows it won’t be an easy task as the Spartans will face stiff competition in the KingCo 4A Crest Division.
“This league is a nightmare — the 2008 3A state champs (Issaquah) and the 2008 4A state champs (Eastlake), along with a stacked Woodinville team — we will work hard to compete and hopefully turn in a few surprises,” he said.
Skyline begins its season at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 at non-league Mercer Island.
Eastside Catholic Crusaders
Eastside Catholic returns a solid core to the field this season, hoping to build on last year’s 3-6-6 season and fifth place finish in the Metro 3A Mountain Division.
The team lost two first-team all-league players, including forward Hanna Tim and defender Kirstie Fanceschina. Second-teamer Lauren Pomelroy also graduated.
Despite the losses, the Crusaders will bring back a veteran group led by the team’s top scorer from 2007, Molly Lavin. She had five goals and one assist on her way to a first-team all-league selection as a junior. Also returning are senior midfielder Carly Schilperoort, junior defender Lindsey Fracas, sophomore defender/forward Kellie Standish and sophomore midfielder Shannon Fracas.
The team is adding one sophomore and three freshman to the varsity roster, including Emily Franceschina, Shelby Newell, Malia Bachesta and Lauren Braynart.
“We are very excited about our team this year,” said assistant coach Scott Brayton. “We are more skilled than the previous seasons and we are faster. If the younger players can step up and contribute the way we think they will we should be a contender for the Metro League playoffs.”
Teams expected to vie for the Metro League title along with the Crusaders are Lakeside, Holy Names and Seattle Prep.