The Southridge High School girls soccer team has made back-to-back trips to the Class 3A state championship game, and all signs point to the Suns making another deep run in the postseason.
Southridge (4-1 overall, 2-1 Mid-Columbia Conference entering Thursday) returns six all-MCC players — two of them Washington State Soccer Coaches Association all-state players — from its 2015 squad that went 19-3 and lost to Seattle Prep in the state title game.
But even with athletes such as 2015 MCC co-player of the year Haley Thomas (12 goals, 11 assists in 2015 as a junior midfielder) and first-team all-state defender Emily Russell (one goal, eight assists) returning to the fold, the most significant returner on the Suns’ roster might be forward McKaley Goffard. She sat out last season after injuring her knee while playing for her summer club team.
“I think once we get everybody healthy and get some games together, we’ll put ourselves hopefully in another position to continue on and make another run,” Southridge coach Greg Sambrano said.
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Goffard was the Suns’ leading scorer in 2014, notching 19 goals and four assists to earn a first-team all-state nod as a sophomore. Her return to Southridge’s lineup will allow Thomas to move back to her natural position as a central defender, Sambrano said.
Midfielders Savannah Brown (two goals, two assists) and Emma Schutt (3G, 3A), and forwards Kelly Brown (8G, 2A) and Syd Sanders (6G, 2A) round out the core of Southridge’s supremely talented group of seniors. Sambrano said that with two second-place state finishes to its credit, the class of 2017 has already cemented itself as one of the best in school history, regardless of what the Suns accomplish this fall.
“Obviously, in 2016, the state championship is one of our top goals,” Sambrano said. “But I don’t feel like the legacy the seniors have created over the past three years will be defined by whether or not they win a state championship.”
Because Hanford moved up to the 4A classification, the MCC and Greater Spokane League 3A schools are slotted to only get one combined state tournament allocation this season. With little margin for error, Sambrano said he hopes the pressure of needing to be the top team in the region brings out the best in his players.
“You can’t afford to have a bad game, I guess,” Sambrano said. “It is what it is. When it comes to the playoffs, you’ve gotta get results.”
The Suns suffered their first loss of the season Tuesday, falling to Richland on penalty kicks.
KAMIAKIN: Despite the graduations of 2015 MCC co-player of the year Rachel Ensign and first-team forward Heather Donais, the Braves (4-0, 3-0) have a strong core of young talent that will make them a threat to knock Southridge off the 3A MCC throne.
First-team all-league midfielder Maddie Morgan brings her electric pace of play back to the Braves’ starting 11 after a stellar freshman campaign in which she scored 16 goals and had three assists. Sophomore defender Rylie Clark, who was on the all-conference second team as a freshman, leads Kamiakin’s back line.
Forward/outside back Britney Donais — Heather’s sister — is another member of the long list of talented sophomores expected to contribute for the Braves this year.
Kamiakin survived its first big test of the season in a 2-1 overtime victory over Hanford last week. The Braves put their undefeated streak on the line Thursday night against Chiawana.
HANFORD: The Falcons (2-2, 2-1) hope to set the pace for the 4A MCC schools after missing the 3A state playoffs a year ago.
First-team all-MCC goalkeeper Kelsee Winston will lead the charge for Hanford throughout conference play after a junior season in which she had a 1.15 goals against average.
Coach Kaylie Winston said that with six all-conference players returning to the lineup, the Falcons have high expectations for 2016.
CHIAWANA: The Riverhawks (2-1 overall/MCC) are fighting attrition after graduating four all-conference players from their 2015 team that appeared in the 4A state tournament.
Midfielder Summer Yates, a first-team all-conference pick and second-team all-state player in 2015, chipped in four goals in Chiawana’s 6-3 road win over Walla Walla on Tuesday. Yates, a junior, has scored seven times in the Riverhawks’ first three games of the season.
CWAC: Prosser reached the state tournament for the first time in four years last season, and the Mustangs seem poised for another run through the 2A ranks.
First-team all-CWAC forward Jamie Fassler returns after scoring 23 goals in her junior season to tie for the conference lead. In total, the Mustangs have five all-league players coming back from last year’s 13-6 team, including first-team defender Haley Clark (she led the defense to eight shutouts) and first-team midfielder Jennifer Inions (seven goals, two assists).
SCAC EAST: Freshman Ariel Lofton has turned Kiona-Benton into the upstart team of the SCAC East. Her 14 goals have helped the Bears start 5-0, exceeding their overall win total from last season.
Ki-Be knocked off last season’s conference champ, Connell, 4-1 on Sept. 8. After finishing fourth at state in 2015, Connell has had a rough start to its newest campaign, sporting an 0-1-1 record entering Thursday.
2015 MCC Standings
(through 17 games)
2015 CWAC Standings
2015 SCAC East standings