Sydnee Grant wanted to be a goalkeeper before there were even goalkeepers.
At least in the 5-on-5 world of youth soccer.
The position has appealed to the Kamiakin senior since she began playing soccer in second grade, even if the position wasn’t quite ready for her.
“I used to ask, ‘Do we have goalies yet?’ and the coach would say: ‘Nope, that’s two years from now. You’ve got to wait,’ ” said Grant, now in her third season starting for the Braves. “That’s the only position I wanted to play, and I couldn’t even play it.”
Eventually, Grant got her wish. Now she is the top returning goalkeeper in the Mid-Columbia Conference after compiling six shutouts and a 0.71 goals against average in a CBBN 3A-high 1,467 minutes. Her work was good enough to be recognized by CBBN 3A coaches, who voted her first-team all-conference. She also earned Class 3A second-team all-state honors in a vote by statewide coaches.
“I was so pleased with what she did last season,” Braves coach Chris Erikson said. “This season, I was nervous because we lost three of our starting four in back, but we didn’t get scored on against Gonzaga Prep or Pasco, and Chiawana only had one goal. Our defense has done a nice job, but it’s also Syd.”
Two years ago, however, Erikson had to challenge Grant to help her live up to her lofty potential as a keeper. As a sophomore, Grant didn’t always display the kind of mental and physical toughness her coach liked to see in her players.
“It was my first year starting, and she told me, ‘If you’re not going to figure it out and play like you should be playing, we can find somebody else,’ ” Grant said. “I remember I was crying, but she made me realize I had to pick it up.”
The tough-love approach is part of Erikson’s style. She won’t pull any punches if she has a point to get across to a player. But Grant said another part of the equation is a generous, funny woman who will do anything for her players.
“She told us she’s going to treat us like one of her daughters,” Grant said. “She does get scary, but you can tell she’s only yelling because she knows you can do better.”
Erikson, in fact, did coach one of her daughters at Kamiakin -- forward Meotis Erikson, from 1993-96.
Kamiakin will bring on a new goalkeeper coach this season, which can only help Grant refine her technique and skill in goal. But she already has the competitive edge, which is evident in her enjoyment of disrupting approaching forwards on their way to the goal.
“I watch their eyes because you can tell if they’re going to take that shot from out wide or take it in,” Grant said. “If they put their head down like they’re ready to go, then I’ll watch their feet, because they always do something weird with their feet. I don’t know what it is, but I can tell.”
After two varsity seasons as a starter, Grant doesn’t have much to fear in the net. But recently, she got a reminder of how rough the position can be when she suffered a concussion during last Thursday’s 1-0 win over Pasco.
“It was one of the weirdest experiences,” she said. “I got hit in the head, and then I went down. Everybody was around me, and I was telling them, ‘I’m fine.’ I got up, and I was walking around all over the place. Then I went down again, and I was thinking, ‘I’m going to throw up.’ ”
Her next stop was the emergency room, where she exhibited signs of a concussion, but it was the self-proclaimed team jokester who had the doctors and nurses in stitches.
“(My teammates) told me I was saying some of the weirdest things, like saying I was going to sleep in someone’s trunk,” Grant said. “But I know I made the whole emergency room laugh because I was cracking jokes.”
She didn’t play Tuesday night and is questionable for this weekend. The concussion symptoms will subside, but she will return to the field soon.
It’s the place she was meant to be, even before there was a place for her.
w Jack Millikin: 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org