Sports

Crisman keeps Eagles in the game

"You've got to give credit to Troy Oelschlager for building the Klahowya Secondary School girls soccer team into one of the state's strongest Class 2A programs.But Oelschlager, the Eagles' fifth-year coach, is the first to admit that he's only as good as the building materials he's had to work with. A major factor in the team's success, he points out, is that he's had Hilary Crisman around which to build.You couldn't ask for a better person to lead your program, says Oelschlager. She has as much to do with the success of the program as me, or anybody.In the three years Crisman has been the warhead of Klahowya's team, the Eagles have finished third, first and fourth in the state 2A playoffs, winning the school's first-ever team sport championship in 1999. A senior who's started and starred since her first game as a freshman, she's on track to finish her high school career with more than 100 goals.On the face of her soccer accomplishments alone, Crisman easily could assume a big-fish-in-a-small-pond persona. If she was to walk the halls at Klahowya haughtily, as if she was the one most responsible for putting the school on the athletic map, it would be justified.Instead, Crisman chooses to swim with the school. While some student-athletes in the Central Kitsap School District shy away from the newest and smallest of its three high schools, and others opt to defect to either Central Kitsap or Olympic - both Class 4A - the Seabeck resident has chosen to leave her mark at Klahowya.She's a very humble kid, Oelschlager says. Asked if she's aware of the impact she's had on her school, he offers, She knows, I think, but she also knows how to handle it. She's more mature than the average high school kid.I've always thought Klahowya, she said about her options within the district. It's only high school. It's a time to have fun. If you win a lot, you win a lot. If not, you just have fun.It's arguable that Klahowya, a team that never had a .500 season in four years of the 4A-3A-2A Olympic League, would've won a lot less had it not been for Crisman. It's conceivable that playing there would've been a lot less fun without her there, too.The Eagles' first year - when Crisman was was an eighth grader and ineligible for the high school team - they went 0-15-1 and scored only one goal all season.Enter Crisman, who has averaged better than a goal a game, and Klahowya's fortunes changed dramatically. After seasons of steeling themselves against the league's bigger schools, the Eagles became a force in the postseason, when they were matched exclusively against other 2A teams.The Eagles haven't failed to get at least as far as the state semifinals in each of Crisman's three varsity seasons.This year Klahowya joins the predominently 2A Nisqually League, which presents a whole new set of challenges. Oelschlager concedes that the Eagles should have much more regular-season success than they did in the Olympic League, where they often simply were overmatched.But will the new league be as helpful in preparing for the playoffs?We'll see, says Crisman. We don't know what a lot of these (Nisqually) teams are like. What we do know is that our goal now is to be league champs. We can actually set that as a goal - that and to be undefeated.In her career, Crisman has been Klahowya's marquee player, its star. A player that scores with her almost numbing reliability is bound to get the attention.But Oelschlager says she doesn't lord her statistics over her teammates, and they don't for a second resent her abilities.We haven't had a lot of true forwards in this program, he points out, adding that small turnouts have prevented the Eagles from even fielding a junior varsity team the last three years, including 2001. A lot of other kids have to accept that their job is to feed Hilary, and they do. A lot of times, that might create problems, but they understand.And rather than watching her own goalscoring numbers pile up, Crisman takes pride in the improvements of her teammates - some of whom have no previous soccer experience when they first step on Klahowya's soggy practice pitch.I can't be anything without them, she says matter-of-factly. Everybody's got their job to do.Ironically, had she played under different circumstances, Crisman might have ended up preventing goals, instead of scoring them. When Oelschlager first saw her toiling for the junior high team, she was playing a half of each game as a goalkeeper.She said she liked doing both, he recalls, but once I saw her play a half in the field, I knew where she was going to play for me. I didn't think twice.She hasn't played a minute in goal in her time at Klahowya.Of course, winning the state 2A championship ranks as Crisman's biggest high school memory so far. But there are other reasons why her sophomore season stands out in her mind.We won state (in soccer), and I made it to state in track as well, she says. I guess that was my biggest year.It's a year she's out to top as a senior.We're going to have to work hard than we have in the past, she says of the Eagles' prospects for 2001. But we have 11 returning players. We have a good foundation.With Crisman to buld around, that goes without saying. "

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