So far this season, the Kalama girls soccer team has taken a blowtorch to its expectations.
Entering the 2019 season without four key seniors from last year with two more transfers and a couple of injuries, the Chinooks weren’t sure how the season would go. All that happened is nine straight wins to open the season and, after a 5-0 drubbing of Life Christian on Wednesday, a 10-1-0 (5-1-0) mark with three games to play.
“We didn’t expect too much out of this season, but we’ve been doing really good,” Kailey Shipley said. “I’m really proud of the team, how we’ve been going. I think it’s just team spirit and how upbeat we are. We really care about each other.”
“They’ve exceeded what I thought,” coach John Bates said.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Kalama is their youth. And it’s not just any youth.
The Chinooks sport five eighth-graders on their roster, a quirk that comes with small-school ball. One of them, Josie Brandenburg, plays forward and draws rave reviews from her teammates and coaches.
She’s scored goals for the Chinooks and helped with assists. She defends from the front and keeps the ball moving with accurate passing. She doesn’t play like she’s still in middle school.
“She’s amazing. She’s the best I’ve ever seen,” Shipley said.
In fact, some of Kalama’s best players are underclassmen.
True, there are the seniors Mary Morrell (goalkeeper), Lily Nichols and Gracie Stemkoski (forwards), Lily Given (midfield) and Abi Meyer (defender), but Shipley, one of the Chinook’s leading scorers, is just a sophomore. Sophie Given is a freshman. Gracie Eillott is one, too.
There’s so much youth in Chinook Stadium right now there isn’t any reason to think Kalama won’t have a super competitive team for the next few years.
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Our other eighth graders, they are doing so well,” Shipley said. “If I was playing as an eighth grader I can’t imagine playing that well.”
And that skill and talent was on display on Wednesday night against the overmatched Eagles.
At the behest of Bates, Kalama foot its collective foot down and scored three goals in the first seven minutes, its offense totally overwhelming the Life Christian defense.
Shipley netted her first in the fourth minute, then Ruby Jackson found the net two minutes later with a powerful strike that went right through the hands of Life Christian keeper Kat Johnston. Shipley added her second just a minute later when Sophie Given found the sophomore with a clever touch pass that got Shipley space, and she easily found the net.
Bates called the dogs off after that, electing to play some reserves and work on the passing game, which has lacked in recent outings.
“I think we did alright,” Bates said. “There’s a few girls that need to push it. I think on the whole we did possess it well.”
Kalama still got into dangerous areas even while playing a more passive style, but it wasn’t looking to score. It was just looking to get into those dangerous areas and make one more pass, find the great shot instead of merely a good shot.
Even so, Kalama found the net two more times in the second half with Morrell finding the net on a Shipley assist in the 60th minute and Phoebe Jackson adding the fifth in the 75th.
The match time for the reserves was welcome, but might not come so easily in the remaining games, all of which are important.
Kalama visits first-place, and still undefeated in league, Adna on Monday for a massive contest, then hosts Onalaska (7-3-1, 3-2-0) and Napavine (6-6-0, 3-2-0) to wrap up the regular season. All three of those matches will have playoff implications.
Kickoff at Adna next week is set for 6 p.m.