After two consecutive trips to the Class 3A state championship game, Haley Thomas can’t wait to get another shot at a state title in girls soccer.
The Southridge High School junior and Herald All-Area player of the year was instrumental not only in getting the Suns back to the Final Four, but in everything that came before it, including a Mid-Columbia Conference title, a District 5 title and a District 5-8 regional championship.
Her contribution was all the more important after Southridge lost McKaley Goffard, the Suns’ leading scorer in 2014, to a knee injury over the summer.
“When we lost McKaley, everybody was doubting us,” Thomas said. “It was sad when we lost (the state championship game), but we realized how much it meant to get back without our leading scorer.”
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Thomas teamed up with Bri Hunting, another repeat first-team All-Area selection, in central defense much of the year but was versatile enough to shift into an attacking midfield position if the offense needed a boost. In a 2-1 first-round state playoff victory over Auburn Riverside, Southridge trailed 1-0 at halftime before Thomas assisted on the tying goal and netted the game-winner.
Thomas, who is eying Eastern Washington University as her top college choice, had 12 goals and 11 assists this year.
“It’s more fun to get into the attack, but I probably prefer to play center back,” Thomas said. “I’m more comfortable there, and I’ve played there way longer.”
It’s hard to argue with the fact that with Thomas and Hunting anchoring the back line, the Suns allowed just 15 goals in 22 games.
With Goffard returning next year, Thomas believes Southridge will have an excellent chance of returning to the state final, where the Suns hope the third time will be the charm.
“I think we’ll be more of a team and not have to depend on (Goffard) so much,” Thomas said. “Now that we have learned to play without her, we won’t have to kick it to her every time.”
Hanford coach Kaylie Winston earned All-Area coach of the year honors after leading the Falcons to an 11-3 record in the MCC, one game behind Southridge. Hanford dealt Southridge its only conference loss.
“A personal highlight was probably beating both Southridge and Kamiakin. Both are very good teams with great coaches, and as a coaching staff, we put in a lot of work to come up with how we wanted to attack them,” said Winston, a 2010 Pasco graduate who went on to play at Walla Walla Community College and Seattle Pacific University. “Next year, I have high expectations. We return a lot of quality players, and I expect us to compete for a league title and make a deeper run into the playoffs.”
Thomas was one of eight repeat selections to the All-Area squad, including Hunting. The others are Samantha Heilman and Tate Kautzky of Richland, Heather Donais and Rachel Ensign of Kamiakin, Braydey Hodgins of Chiawana and Jessica Garcia of Connell. Heilman, a three-time selection to the All-Area team, was last year’s player of the year.
Joining them on the first team are Justice Aragon and Summer Yates of Chiawana, Kelsee Winston of Hanford, Emily Russell of Southridge and Hannah Templeton of Kennewick.
GK: Cydni Cottrell, sr., Chiawana. Forwards: Rilee Castilla, jr., Kamiakin; Jamie Fassler, jr., Prosser; Taylor Matheny, jr., Hanford. Midfielders: Kelly Brown, jr., Southridge; Savannah Brown, jr., Southridge; Parker Lee, sr., Kamiakin; Maddie Morgan, fr., Kamiakin; Sadie Newsom, jr., Hanford. Defenders: Judith Artiaga, sr., Connell; Georgia Coleman, jr., Hanford; Andraya Conger, sr., Chiawana; Olivia Podhaisky, jr., Richland.
MVP: Haley Thomas, jr., D, Southridge. Coach: Kaylie Winston, Hanford.
Goalkeeper: Kelsee Winston, jr., Hanford.
Forwards: Braydey Hodgins, sr., Chiawana; Summer Yates, so., Chiawana; Samantha Heilman, sr., Richland; Heather Donais, sr., Kamiakin.
Midfielders: Tate Kautzky, sr., Richland; Jessica Garcia, sr., Connell; Hannah Templeton, sr., Kennewick.
Defenders: Bri Hunting, sr., Southridge; Emily Russell, jr., Southridge; Rachel Ensign, sr., Kamiakin; Justice Aragon, sr., Chiawana.
Goalkeeper: Cydni Cottrell, sr., Chiawana.
Forwards: Rilee Castilla, jr., Kamiakin; Jamie Fassler, jr., Prosser; Taylor Matheny, jr., Hanford.
Midfielders: Kelly Brown, jr., Southridge; Savannah Brown, jr., Southridge; Parker Lee, sr., Kamiakin; Maddie Morgan, fr., Kamiakin; Sadie Newsom, jr., Hanford.
Defenders: Judith Artiaga, sr., Connell; Georgia Coleman, jr., Hanford; Andraya Conger, sr., Chiawana; Olivia Podhaisky, jr., Richland.