When it comes to the biggest defensive assignments facing the Kamiakin Braves girls soccer team, Chris Erikson is more than comfortable turning to one of the smallest girls on the field.
The same one who often cracks jokes to her teammates during games to lighten the mood if needed.
The same one who gave herself a concussion during a playoff game last year after heading so many entry passes out of the defensive zone.
The same one who, once she puts on her oversized stadium jacket, nearly disappears into a vast sea of black vinyl.
But whenever she’s called upon to neutralize a dangerous attacker or boost the Braves’ offense, senior midfielder Brianna Turley has proven that she’s up to the task every time.
“She’s an unsung hero who often gets overlooked,” Erikson said. “She’s terrier-like. She goes hunting for the ball quickly in closing on the opposition. She’s always positive, and she’s always working hard. I complain about everybody, but not her.”
Soccer has been Turley’s top sport since she gave up basketball (“I wasn’t tall enough for that sport,” she said.) and softball (“Not enough moving around”), but she may have taken to the ice if given the chance.
Her brother, Brandon, was a former standout for the Tri-City Titans hockey club, and they used to dream about a future in skates.
“(Former NHL standout and Tri-City Americans co-owner) Stu Barnes is my dad’s cousin, and we used to pretend to be him,” Turley said. “But my dad never let me play hockey. He said I would get hurt.”
Turley appears to have made the right choice, earning first-team all-Mid-Columbia-Conference honors for the Braves for the last two seasons.
And it’s not just her teammates and coaches who have noticed her contribution.
“When we played Richland (at Lampson Stadium), she got (all-MCC striker Samantha) Heilman in a corner, and Turley was defending her,” Erikson said. “You know Heilman is real jukey, but Turley stayed with her for like 30 seconds. The linesman — he didn’t know we could hear him — he just sighed and said, ‘Now that’s good defending.’ ”
A solid technique is a big part of Turley’s approach on defense.
“I don’t stab. That’s No. 1,” she said. “No running and just swiping at them. I just move my feet and try to no be flat. If I think they’re going to take a shot, I do my best to get my foot in front.”
When Kamiakin faces Bellevue in the Class 3A state semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, Turley will certainly get the call to take on the Wolverines’ top midfield threat.
It’s a challenge she’s looking forward to.
“I wasn’t very aggressive as a freshman. I had to get tough,” she said, giving credit to former Kamiakin and Columbia Basin College defender Taylor Schutzenhofer for helping her grow as a player. “(I learned) don’t let them shove you around. If they do, do it back. Maybe I shouldn’t say that.”
On the field, Turley’s actions speak for themselves.
“She mans up no matter what size (the opponent) is. She always gets to the ball first,” junior midfielder Rylie Dixon said. “She’s always heading the ball. We have to tell her, ‘Don’t head the ball.’ ”
Teammates say Turley is fairly quiet by nature, but her humor is something the Braves will miss dearly when she graduates in the spring.
“Her humor keeps us all up,” senior defender Samantha Walter said. “She has this attitude and tone-of-voice thing she does. She has this sass.”
It’s a sass that will add some class to Kamiakin’s pursuit of the first girls soccer title in program history.