High School Soccer

Scoring duo puts Bombers on top

RICHLAND — Bria Caldwell and Sam Lee both went to the mountaintop of WIAA 4A girls soccer in 2007, and the view was beautiful.

As freshmen starters, Caldwell and Lee both made significant contributions to Richland's run to the state semifinals and eventual fourth-place finish.

The trip back down the mountain in 2008, however, wasn't so nice.

The Bombers, who had won seven straight league titles, lost their footing in the CBBN standings. They finished fourth in league and missed state for the first time in eight seasons.

"Being in the Final Four was definitely a great experience," Caldwell said. "Coming back the next year, though, we lost a lot of talent. We had to do everything 10 times harder."

At the heart of that push was Caldwell and Lee, who was named a team captain as a sophomore. But Lee admitted acceptance in that role was hard to find among her older teammates.

"No one wanted to hear what I had to say," said Lee. "So I led by example."

From that point, Caldwell and Lee began the arduous task of rebuilding Richland into a team that could challenge for a league title and, eventually, another state playoff berth.

The Bombers (10-1) already accomplished one half of that goal, clinching its first league championship since 2007 and its 10th since 1997.

They've done so utilizing vastly different styles of play. Lee uses her power and durability to hold possession at midfield and set up her teammates. Caldwell, a forward, is more of a finesse player, using speed and grace to beat opposing defenses.

Working together, they are a formidable asset on the Bombers' attack.

"One thing they have in common is strength. It takes a couple people to knock them off the ball," said Richland coach Sara Elfering, who watched the pair lead the Bombers back to the district championship game last season. "If Sam isn't close enough to crack a shot off, she'll find a way to get it to Bria, and vice versa."

Caldwell has 16 goals this season -- second to Erin Huisingh of Chiawana, who has 18 -- while Lee is third with 14. The senior pair are also 1-2 in the CBBN 4A in assists -- Lee with 12 and Caldwell eight.

Caldwell recently reached rare air in terms of career scoring, cracking the 50-goal plateau with her first goal Saturday in a 3-1 win over Wenatchee. But tracking goals isn't what motivates the Three Rivers club player.

"I never really have (kept track)," said Caldwell, who is considering Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, Gonzaga and Indiana among her college choices. "I've thought about beating other people."

Both players got early starts in soccer, playing as teammates since elementary school. Their experience together isn't limited to one sport, either -- the duo played on the Bombers basketball team for the last three seasons.

That kind of teamwork has led to several scoring connections between the two -- 10 in all this season alone -- a by-product of such a familiar on-field relationship.

Elfering, a former Richland soccer player herself, is a grateful beneficiary of such a talented and productive duo.

"When they're both working really hard, you almost want to start taking bets on who's going to get the first one," she said.

Lee, who is four goals away from the 30-goal mark for her career, appreciates the give-and-take with Caldwell and loves the competitive nature they both share.

"We get on each other a lot, which makes us better. We'll push each other to be more aggressive," said Lee, who has all but committed to play soccer for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Lee had a memorable summer during which her club team, the Seattle-based WPFC 92 women, won the U-18 Gold Division at the prestigious Surf Cup tournament in San Diego. Lee played a big role, scoring the game-winning goal in a semifinal match that landed WPFC in the championship game.

"Surf Cup was amazing. The last couple years we got put out in group play," Lee said. "To win it was incredible."

Today at 7 p.m. at Bomber Field, Richland faces a bold challenge of getting past a Chiawana team that defeated the Bombers 2-1 in their last meeting in Pasco. The Riverhawks are led up top by Huisingh and Lexi Miller, who scored both Chiawana goals in the win, and a strong back line.

"I think it's going to take all of us playing 100 percent," Caldwell said. "The last game we really didn't have that. It should be a good game."