If there's one regret Southridge forward Heather Johnson has regarding the Suns 2011 girls soccer season, it isn't be the one you might think.
Johnson, a senior who will attend Gonzaga next fall on a soccer scholarship, was the driving force for a Southridge team that went undefeated through the first 18 games of the season before taking a surprising first-round loss at the Class 3A state tournament.
Instead of lamenting one loss on a cold November night at Southridge High School, Johnson reflected with a tinge of sadness that she will no longer be playing soccer with such a special group.
"We were all so close with each other. We were inseperable," said Johnson, who earned the Herald's Player of the Year honor for the second consecutive season. "We all went to dinner last week, and we recently had a little get-together to play soccer against the boys."
The loss at state was difficult to swallow, of course, but Johnson is ultimately grateful for the chance to help put Southridge soccer on the map. In her four varsity seasons, the Suns went 59-15, earning three league championships, one regional championship and three state tournament appearances.
Individually, Johnson's achievements were spectacular. She led the CBBN 3A with 31 goals and 16 assists. She also became just the third player in Big Nine history to reach 100 goals, finishing with 101. Only Meotis Erikson (132 goals) and Hope Solo (109) have scored more.
"I think people definitely make it out to be a bigger deal than I do. I keep it on the down low," Johnson said. "It's just another accomplishment."
She did say, however, she's keeping the ball with which she scored her 100th goal, a hard-fought, left-footed roller she sent across the box with a defender on her hip that barely tucked inside the far post. It's a well-earned memento, and a small price to pay for Southridge considering what she gave to the program.
"My grandma was saying, 'Well why don't you give it to the school?' " Johnson said. "But I'm going to keep it for sure. I had all the players and coaches sign it."
Several coaches were good enough to earn the Herald's coach of the year nod, but one in particular led his team to a place it had never been before.
Ricardo Char spent nine pride-swallowing seasons as Moses Lake girls coach before breaking through this year with a 2-1 win over Richland for the Chiefs' first-ever district title. What made it even more memorable was doing it at Bomber Field in Richland, a place where he had seen nothing but humilty.
"Nobody beats Richland. They've been a powerhouse for the last 15 years, and they'll be a powerhouse for the next 15 years," Char said. "It was a testament to how far these girls have come."
Johnson was one of three repeat selections to the first team, along with Helen Petersen of Prosser and Cari Exarhos of Hanford. For Johnson, it was her third consecutive appearance on the first team, but Peterson is a rarity, earning her fourth first-team nod.
Rounding out the first team are Ellie Heiden, Macy Brannan and Sydnee Grant of Kamiakin; Kelsie Grant and Caylah Lunning of Moses Lake; Katherine Virden and Andes Archibald of Richland; Lexi Miller of Chiawana; Kendall Riddelle of Hanford and Emma Sanders of Southridge.
Southridge goalkeeper Ingrid Stein and Richland forward Kirsten Calmus -- both first-team choices last season -- missed considerable playing time because of injury but did return in time to lift their teams to a league championship.