The Hanford girls soccer team hasn’t had a true marquee player since Kie Johnson shared CBBN player of the year honors in 2010.
But the Falcons have proven it is possible to win without superstar talent, as long as there is a strong base.
Having a player like Sydney Shintaffer helps, too.
Hanford coach Mart Oostrom has been looking for someone to step up and lead the team since Johnson helped guide them to the 3A state tournament in 2010, and Shintaffer certainly fits the mold.
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The 5-foot-9 senior midfielder proved as much in a 5-0 win over Prosser in the team’s season opener Saturday.
“We were winning, but we were very lackluster. We weren’t doing what we had to do tactically,” Oostrom said. “I gave the team to Shintaffer, and she fixed it — the work rate, that kind of stuff. She has automatic respect. She doesn’t just say it. She does it.”
Shintaffer, one of three captains along with Bret Baysinger and Emily Busselman, is pleased with the way the team has responded through the first few weeks of the season.
“We started off pretty well (at Prosser). I told them this is step one. Where we want to be is state,” she said. “I think we’re going to start realizing we can rely on each other and play to our abilities.”
Shintaffer has shown her versatility over the years, moving effortlessly from midfield to defense and even switching to attack mode on set plays. She will begin this year at midfield, which will allow her to utilize her eye for playmaking, but she’s happy to let someone else handle the goalkeeper role.
“I did that for a while in rec leagues,” she said. “Then I was like, I’m not being goalie anymore. I don’t have to worry. We have Emily.”
Busselman is grateful to Shintaffer, too, for the role she plays.
“She’s a great person to have in your corner. She’s always had my back,” Busselman said. “If something is going on with the team, she’ll stand up. If someone gets fouled, she’ll go after the referee and (tell him) you need to start calling stuff.”
Her interest in athletics began as early as she could start watching her older brother Riley play basketball and soccer in the neighborhood. Riley started noticing that Sydney might have a future in sports, too.
“She’s three years younger than I am, but she was keeping up stride for stride,” said Riley, a Hanford graduate now playing baseball at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D. “She was a tomboy growing up. You couldn’t find a picture of her in a dress. My mom would try to dress her up, but she was always more comfortable in sweats.”
But that worked out for her in the end.
“I’m really proud of her every day,” big brother said. “I’m happy she’s been able to continue playing and continue her dream. It’s something she’s talked about since she was younger.”
Sydney is also a starting forward for the Falcons’ basketball team, helping lead Hanford to strong finishes in each of the last three seasons.
She doesn’t get much free time, but don’t be surprised if you find her water skiing or wakeboarding on the Columbia River.
“When I’m wakeboarding, I do some clear-the-wake kind of stuff, so I take some falls,” she said with a smile. “(Last week) my dad was purposely trying to throw me off the inner tube. I was like, I’m done here.”
Fortunately for Hanford, she’s not done making a difference on the soccer field.