Frank Workman on Sports: Playing like champions

Sunday, November 23, 2014

O Captain, my captain

Our fearful trip is done; 
If it wasn't for Squalicum
We'd be Number One. 

(With apologies to Walt Whitman)

When the Shorecrest girls' soccer team opened the season at home on September 9 with a 4-0 loss at the hands of Lakeside, few in attendance could have imagined that 74 days later they'd take the same field to play for the State Championship. Many would have been happy with them just making it through Districts and simply qualifying for the sixteen-team State tournament at that point.

Along their way to a 19-5 record and a second place finish in the State's 2A ranks, they soared to phenomenal highs. 

They split their first four non-league games, including a 1-0 loss to crosstown rival Shorewood. But then the bell rang to start the Wesco 3A South season and the Scots came out smoking hot. They won their next eleven straight games, outscoring their opposition 33-5 along the way. They avenged their earlier loss to Shorewood, 3-0. They knocked off this year's 3A State Champions Edmonds-Woodway, 1-0. A surprising 1-0 loss on the last day of the regular season against a desperate Glacier Peak team only served to remind the team of their vulnerability and may have been the kick in the pants they needed to refocus their efforts. 

They won their league with an 11-1 mark. 

All this while being a smaller 2A school playing up a level against 3A competition.

None of this happened by accident.  

Head coach Mindy Dalziel has been at the helm at Shorecrest for ten years. She played for a pair of Scots State Championship teams herself. Her assistant, Lori Henry, is a Shorewood grad who matriculated to the holy grail of womens' college soccer, the University of North Carolina, where her Tar Heels teams went undefeated for three straight years. Henry then went on to play for the US Women's National team that defeated Japan to win the first Women's World Cup. Between the two coaches, they've forgotten more about the game of soccer than most others will ever know.

The coaches did what all great teachers do .... they got the players to want to get better. A position in the starting lineup wasn't given, it was earned from game-to-game based on what went on in practice the days leading up to each match.  

In time, the players meshed. A scorer emerged in junior Sophia Viviano, whose 31 goals accounted for more than half the team's total for the season. Kate Wiper, a sophomore goalkeeper with enormous shoes to fill (following the graduation of four-year starter Frida Swensen) proved the adage that 'you never replace a hero with a zero'. Wiper improved as the season progressed, helped in great part by a defense that boasted three of the team's four seniors (MacKenzie Parry, Kayla Holland, and Alex Murphy). The fourth senior, Meghan Wicken, was deemed the team's unsung hero by Coach Dalziel by season's end.

The team won their first two games at Districts and faced undefeated Squalicum in the District title game. The Storm prevailed 3-0.

Shorecrest blistered Black Hills in the first round of State, 4-0. In the Quarter-finals, they knocked off Liberty, last year's defending 3A State Champs, 4-3, with Miss Viviano scoring all the goals.

Friday night they shot to a 2-0 halftime lead in the Semi-Finals over Ridgefield, and when they took a 3-0 lead in the second half, it appeared as if they were going to mash, shred, and fry the Spudders.   Instead, Ridgefield pushed the Scots to the brink by scoring two late goals before time ran out.

Saturday night's final game saw the Scots score first, and the huge throng representing the entire local soccer and Shorecrest community got their hopes up, dreaming of a sixth championship banner to hang in the gym. But Squalicum proved their mettle by putting intense pressure on the Scots, knocking them onto their heels, scoring the tying goal early in the second half, then the game-winner with six minutes to play.

In the end the Scots just ran out of gas. It was not to be. But they thrilled their fans, not just Saturday night but all season long, including countless young players from the youth ranks who ringed the field as honorary ball girls-and-boys at most games, getting an up-close view of a team that played the game hard, unselfishly, the right way.

A team that played like champions play.


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