Klahowya sets sights high

Klahowya senior and first-year Eagle Sierra Cook makes a move en route to one of her three goals in Wednesday’s 4-0 home win. - Photo by Aaron Managhan
Klahowya senior and first-year Eagle Sierra Cook makes a move en route to one of her three goals in Wednesday’s 4-0 home win.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

If Wednesday’s season opener was any indication, the Klahowya Eagles could be looking at one of the school’s most successful girls soccer seasons ever. And with the state’s 1999 2A title under the program’s belt, that’s saying a lot.

Klahowya blanked 1A Orting 4-0 Wednesday, but dominated the game from start to finish, with several scoring opportunities just missing the mark.

With a big boost in the addition of senior midfielder Sierra Cook, a new keeper in the nets in athletic junior Kazandra Holliday and a host of returners familiar with the program, the Eagles (6-9-2 overall, 6-6-2 last year) are poised to make a deep postseason run.

In fact, Klahowya coach Troy Oelschlager, who’s coached at the school since its inception, said this squad has the potential to be better than the school’s only state championship team.

“This team is more skilled than that team, but the whole skill level everywhere has come up,” Oelschlager said. “That team had a lot of heart. They gave it 110 percent everyday. So that’ll be the question.”

The Eagles finished as the top Olympic League 2A team last year, but were upended by Steilacoom in a loser-out, winner-to-state district game. As a result, Oelschlager said he’s looking to today’s 1 p.m. match with the Sentinels at Silverdale Stadium as one of the team’s first big tests. The team will get another test on Sept. 13 when they travel to Eatonville, the state’s No. 4 2A team a year ago.

On the field, the Eagles match an experienced defense with a fluid passing attack.

With six seniors, and with 10 players returning, the Eagles already have a strong idea of what will be needed to take the next step.

“It helps a lot,” Oelschlager said. “They all know what the expectations are. It’ll hurt next year a little bit, losing this group of seniors, but for now, we’ll see what this group can do.”

The Eagles defense is anchored by co-captain Anna Stewart, Abby Periot and Jenna Whetsel. Sophomore Maile All will be back as will Courtney Lewandowski, last year’s keeper.

Oelschlager said the defense will get a boost not only from Holliday in the goal, but from Lewandowski on the field.

“Courtney, having her in there really helps us,” Oelschlager said of his defense. “And Anna Stewart in there too, anchoring the defense.”

The offense includes senior mids and co-captains Cook and Shelby Hunter, senior mids Brittany Corely and Theresa Pryzbylek and sophomore Jessica Drake. At forward are junior Kinsey Simcic and sophomore Rebekka Schell.

Cook, who ran cross country in her three previous falls with the Eagles, finishing eighth at state last year and took fourth and third in the two years prior, scored a hat trick on opening night, her first goal scoring after she drove by six Orting defenders on a breakaway.

“It’s wonderful,” he said of her addition. “I wish I could take credit for that, but I can’t. I’m glad we have her.”

Soccer is nothing new to Cook, who was among 96 girls across the United States invited to compete in the adidas Elite Soccer Program this summer in Pomona, Calif. As many as 100 college coaches attended the camp. She’s been playing since she was 5, but ran cross country because she “was good at it,” while maintaining her soccer career through select programs.

“It’s good. I love it,” Cook said of playing for the Eagles for the first time. “I definitely am (excited). I kind of wish I had (played) last year.”

With most of her friends also soccer players, Cook said that made her decision easier.

“Almost all my friends played soccer,” she said. “That was definitely one of the factors that played into it.”

And while Cook stole the show, Oelschlager said everyone did, and will continue to, contribute throughout the season.

“Even without (Cook) in the lineup we were able to maintain an attack,” he said. “We don’t have to rely just on her to create everything for us.”

Schell added the remaining Klahowya goal, while Whetsel, Lewandowski and Stewart all chalked up assists.

Holliday maintained a strong presence in the net, but at one point had to rely on Stewart to clear a ball that otherwise would have easily gone in. Still, for someone who hasn’t played organized soccer since seventh grade, getting clean sheets to start wasn’t bad.

“She was tested a little bit and she responded well,” Oelschlager said, adding that he’s worked with her a lot to get ready for the season. “Kind of a trial by fire I guess. She did great.”

The win was nice also as Klahowya got to see not only its veteran newcomers, but also its true freshmen, Ruthie Hawley (midfield), Rocky Wimkler (forward) and Acai Cook (defender).

“That was a nice win,” Oelschlager said. “I’m extremely happy with how we played. I was a little nervous having a new body in goal, starting a couple freshmen. But everyone played great, the whole roster.”

Sierra Cook agreed.

“I was kind of nervous,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how it’d play out. We’ve been scrimmaging together, but I hadn’t played with them yet. But I think it turned out really well.”

But no matter how the season goes on the pitch, Oelschlager said it will be a special group to work with.

“The thing is, they’re all just great kids,” he said. “They’re fun, great kids.”

While Oelschlager said he expects the team to make a strong postseason run, he said it’s still too early to look past anyone in the Olympic League.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I don’t know how good the other 2As will be.”

Regardless, the Eagles are going in with a lot of confidence.

“I’m excited for this year,” Sierra Cook added. “We should go far.”

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