The Bothell High girls’ soccer team isn’t placing the beauty of the game first and foremost, nor are they looking to win games with style or class.
Just win, baby.
And if that means taking criticism — similar to comments from US national team goalkeeper Hope Solo following an Olympic loss to Sweden this summer — that’s okay.
“It’s funny that we just had the controversy with what US Soccer did, but we’re going to play like Sweden: find our opportunities to counter and make it very difficult to be scored on,” said coach Shaun Warner. “If we win with strategy, they can call us whatever they want.”
Sit and counter, a break from Bothell’s possession style from last season. The Cougars lost one of the league’s premiere talents in 2015 offensive MVP Meghan Tveit, also a first-team midfielder and leader.
“It was really different, the first day without her there, but I feel like we’ve really come together without her,” said senior defender Samantha Morse. “We’re really starting to show leadership and push ourselves without her.”
The Cougars will lean on an experienced back line of Morse and junior Emily Gibson, with the addition of sophomore Mallory Harder from the JV squad.
A handful of injuries to new athletes will slow the development of a cohesive midfield. Sophomore Antonia Miranda, who plays in one of the area’s top-level clubs, is waiting to be cleared to try out and is a likely varsity addition in the center of the field. The Cougars are also awaiting the recovery of junior forward Bella Murray.
— John William Howard (@JowardHoward) August 30, 2016
Up front, Warner said Bothell should be above average. Despite the loss of first-team forward Makenzie Knowles, who scored eight of Bothell’s 24 goals, the Cougars will have attacking options. Madison Homer returns for her senior season after scoring seven goals last fall, and is likely to be a top goalscorer once again.
The counter-attacking style will push Homer into a more defensive position during portions of matches.
“I play center forward, and our forwards are going to try to be really interchangeable,” she said. “If we’re defending and we get the ball and counter, then the forwards need to make runs and try to confuse the defenders.”
Also contributing in the attack with be junior Maiya Pacleb, who said the team’s goal would be to tire out opponents defensively and wait for a mistake.
“We want to take risks and we’re getting more confident in taking those risks,” she said. “I think that, over time, if we keep going hard and pressuring the defense like we are, we could be pretty lethal in the attack.”
The defensive shift for Bothell also relies on the talents of junior goalkeeper Emily Heffernan, who had a “phenomenal” year on the JV squad last season, Warner said. A gifted athlete, Heffernan has the ability to make split-second reaction saves and the fearlessness to challenge opposing forwards.
“She actually loves the position, and she loves contact,” Warner said. “Super aggressive. And she’s a complete competitor and doesn’t like to lose, so she does not like to get scored on.”
Warner has placed a fair amount of weight on the defensive side of the game, especially given the tough league in which Bothell plays. The Cougars went 6-7-2 last season losing in the first round of the Class 4A KingCo playoffs. Issaquah went on to win the 2015 state title, but lost twice to league opponent Skyline.
Issaquah, Mount Si and Skyline will all be challenges for Bothell this season, but if Sweden can beat the United States on the world stage by playing tough defense and trying to counter, Bothell can challenge perennial state powers. And from that ideal comes high aspirations.
“We want to be in the top five,” Warner said. “Basically, find a way to get into the playoffs and be top five. We made a goal of being third in goals against. We’re really going to work on not giving up goals this year.”