Last year, as a freshman, Hallie Bergford got whiff early in the season that there was a chance she could make varsity for Tumwater High School’s girls’ soccer team.
All she had to do was line up as a defender.
Bergford was somewhat familiar with the position, having played it from time-to-time during club soccer, but high school would be a different challenge, playing against more experienced players two to three years older than her in a position she had only appeared in sporadically.
Out of her comfort zone, Bergford went out and showed her versatility by earning first-team all-2A Evergreen Conference as a defender in 2016.
“But that’s just Hallie,” teammate and fellow sophomore Cassie Mullin said, “and Hallie’s good at everything. She can do anything. If we needed her to play somewhere that she’s never played before she’d do it and be great at it.”
One of the spots the Thunderbirds weren’t required to fill a void in last year was goalkeeper where Mullin far exceeded her freshman status as well – spearheading a stingy Tumwater defense that registered nine shutouts during the regular season en route to winning the EvCo championship.
During conference play, Mullin was nearly unstoppable, posting eight shutouts and surrendering a combined three goals over the 10-game span. Not surprisingly, she joined Bergford as a first-team all-conference selection, making Tumwater the only team to have multiple first-year players receive the honor last year.
“Those two are phenomenal young athletes,” Tumwater coach Brett Bartlett said. “They’re tall and long and fast. So, they have all the athletic qualities, but they also have this understanding of the game and were great team players too. They weren’t just really talented kids who came in and played. They were super malleable. They fit right in and the seniors accept them and adopted them.”
Surrounded by a very strong senior class in 2016, Bergford and Mullin played huge roles in the T-Birds advancement to the state tournament for the first time since 2012 and finishing with a record of 17-3 with their only losses coming to 4A state champion Camas, 2A state champion Columbia River and 2A third-place finisher Archbishop Murphy.
“There’s a lot of young kids you can throw in there and they will do fine athletically, but in terms of the mental aspects, they won’t be there,” Bartlett said. “They (Mullin and Bergford) really made very few fatal errors back there (last year). Everyone makes them whether they’re a senior or a freshman or a professional. They were was just super solid for us.”
Even more is asked out of the duo this year and they have delivered as Tumwater looks to continue its success. And, while they maybe sophomores in the classroom, on the field they are far more experienced.
“Last year I was just kind of high on being a freshman on varsity and loving high school,” said Mullin, who already has three shutouts to her credit this season. “This year there’s more responsibility. We’ve been working a lot on communication. If we tell each other we’re going to go out and accomplish something as team, we all make sure we put in the work and actually go out and do it. We’re trying to hold everyone accountable.”
While Mullin remains in net, Bergford has made a positional switch, returning to her preferred place as a forward.
“I’m playing more midfield this year, but I’m still trying to help the backline,” Bergford said. “We definitely have some new positional players because a lot of them, like me last year, are filling in as defenders when they were forwards before, but we all love to play and everyone is willing to work so it’s exciting.”
“We graduated so many kids from last year. We are really a new group, not in terms of individual players – they all have experience and are good players – but in understanding how to play as a team,” Bartlett said. “It takes time. We will see it in fits and spurts. We will go five minutes and everything will be great, and then we will go another 5-10 minutes and we’re not sure what we are doing, but we’re getting there.”
Despite all the changes, Tumwater has logged a 7-4 overall record and won its first five consecutive matches in EvCo play.
“We’ve definitely have had some bumps, but were working on it,” Mullin said. “Overall we all have a ton of ability we just took a while to find that rhythm together, but I think we found it and we realized we can do this. We’re a team.”