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Offensive-minded Tahoma girls soccer crushing the opposition
By the halfway point of league play the Tahoma girls soccer team was ranked No. 1 in the state, No. 11 in the country and had scored 40 goals while allowing just two to put together a 9-0 start to the season.
Then, Tahoma went out in game 10 against Auburn Oct. 4 and scored seven more goals while tallying another shut out. A week later the national rankings came out and Tahoma moved into the top 10, grabbing the ninth spot on the list.
All that offense just makes senior midfield Brie Hooks, who has committed to play soccer at Colorado University, shake her head.
“I was pretty surprised by our successes because in the past … we’ve had to grind out wins,” Hooks said. “We’ve been a lot more focused on offense and it’s paid off.”
Hooks was particularly pleased when Tahoma thumped rival Kentwood, in part to avenge a shootout loss in the state championship match two years ago, when the Bears beat the Conquerors 6-1 at home Sept. 29.
“I’ve wanted to beat them badly since freshman year,” Hooks said. “It was good to finally beat them that bad, just to prove we’re the better team.”
This Bears soccer squad is looking to continue a winning tradition which covers two coaches and more than a decade. Since 2000, Tahoma has gone to the state tournament eight times and won 4A state titles in 2001 as well as 2005, plus has gone to state the past four seasons with an appearance in the state final in 2010 and a final four appearance which led to a third place trophy in 2011.
Paige Hammock, who relocated with her family to Washington state after sixth grade, said this part of the country is just soccer crazy. At least, that’s part of the explanation for the tradition here.
“Soccer is definitely competitive in Washington,” Hammock said. “I used to live in Connecticut and it was not competitive as it is here. Everybody I know here has played soccer. And all the seniors before us leave such a big mark on us. We have a lot of seniors and I know we want to finally finish what we’ve been trying to do.”
There’s no denying the team is not only hungry to win but has the talent as well as the skill to do it.
Sama Granlund, a senior captain who plays as an outside defender, explained that part of the skill level comes from the fact the girls on the team play on a wide variety of top club teams.
“This year everybody brings something different,” Granlund said.
Add to that a large group of seniors who bring a load of talent to the pitch and Coach Jason Johnson, in his fourth year coaching at Tahoma, has a seriously competitive team on his hands.
“We have so many seniors that have played together since freshman year, so, we know each other,” Granlund said. “It’s our last hurrah. We all want the same thing and we know how to get it. It all starts at training. When we train well it translates to the field.”
Granlund said that it helps they’ve played against many of the other teams in the South Puget Sound League North enough that they know what the competition level is like.
That should help them continue to dominate the league and roll into the playoffs with confidence headed, Granlund said, for a state championship.
In order to do that, they need to make sure they stay on top of the small goals: train hard, limit distractions and play for each other.
“We’ve been there before, we know what it’s like and what it’s like to be on the other end,” Granlund said of getting to the title game. “We need to just keep the momentum going. As long as we can get through it together and stay close as a team … we can meet our goal.”
Hooks said focus is critical, especially with not just opponents taking notice but media both in the region as well as across the country taking notice of what the Bears are doing on the soccer field.
“We need to just keep up our focus during practice and not let the media and the hype get to us,” Hooks said. “Obviously we didn’t need those things in the past. There’s nothing that can stop us if we continue to work hard.”
Hard work is what led to all of those goals, Hooks said. And that’s what leads to wins, even in the games where the Bears don’t score six goals — through 10 games they’d scored six or more on five different occasions — the ability outwork opponents as well as pick each other up with the high level of intensity they play through.
And like Hooks, Hammock was pleased with how Tahoma played against Kentwood, but the team can’t be satisfied with that.
“The big thing is we can never be happy with ourselves,” Hammock said. “We need to play every game like it’s the most important game … like we might lose. We need to go out as hard as we can every game.”
That’s because the Bears now have a target on their backs. Teams will want to take down the top-ranked squad or avenge that embarrassing loss from the first meeting of the season.
If, however, the girls can do what they’re capable of, Hammock said, it can be amazing.
“When we calm down and find each other’s feet we put together the most beautiful things,” Hammock said. “It builds from the defense to the midfield to the forwards. The whole team is involved.”
And while Hammock knows that Tahoma’s aggressive play has led to a reputation the players are mean, she knows that’s not true.
“I think we have so much heart on this team,” Hammock said. “Everyone hustles. Hard work is our strength.”