By Gail Wood
No one does it better. Eight games into the season, Hakes, a three-time, first-team, all-Narrows League forward for North Thurston High School, has textbook ball-handling skills. But that’s not why she scored 26 goals last season and 16 already this season after 10 games.
“It’s all about her want-to,” said Brian Bigelow, North Thurston’s coach.
Being fast and crafty, skillful with the ball, that’s secondary to her desire. It’s Hakes’ determination that makes her a scoring machine.
“I’ve coached a lot of players who have the skills, but it’s that want to score the goal, want to have that goal that separates those goal scorers from other forwards,” Bigelow said. “She stands out by shear desire.”
With Hakes scoring two goals in a recent 8-0 win against Lincoln and averaging nearly two goals a game, North Thurston is off to an impressive 7-3 start, outscoring opponents 47-17.
“The strength of our team is really our offense,” Bigelow said. “Most of the players back are offensive players. They work really, really well together. My center defenders work really, really well together.
Back at midfield are Grae Hill and Rebecca Hummer, a pair of returning starters who were both all-league last season.
“They play really well together,” Bigelow said.
Hill, at 5 foot, is usually the shortest player on the field. But she’s an impact player, often controlling the ball and setting up goals. She’s been a first-team, all-league pick the last two years. She made honorable mention all-league as a freshman despite playing only half the season because of an ankle injury.
“She’s very smart in where she positions herself,” Bigelow said. “She’s got very quick feet and she’s very skilled with the ball. She can move the ball around a lot. She breaks a lot of ankles out there.”
Hill gets a defender leading one way and goes the other, throwing an opponent off balance. She’s heard the “she’s too small” comments all her life.
“I live off criticism and the doubt of others,” Hill said. “Just knowing that people doubt that I’m capable to fight against taller players makes me strive to want to do better – just to know that I can do what they think is impossible for me and just to prove them wrong.”
Like Hakes, Hill is driven. It’s their skill and their desire that separate them from the crowd.
“You don’t have to be the fastest player out there,” Hakes said. “You just have to be smart about it. I think patience is a big thing too. Your opportunities will come as long as you’re working hard. Play to do your best.”
That’s been Hakes’ and Hill’s motto since they first started playing soccer before they were in kindergarten. As a midfielder, it’s Hill’s job to set up her teammates for a score. She accepts that role.
“I don’t score that many goals. I don’t mind not having the glory,” Hill said during a recent practice. “I like seeing my team succeed.”
It’s all about winning, not about grabbing headlines for herself.
North Thurston has three first-team, all-league players back from last year’s team. Besides Hakes and Hill, there’s Aja Phommahasey, a junior who was a first-team, all-league defender last season. She’s one of the fastest players on the team.
“She’s also really skilled with the ball,” Bigelow said. “She’s got a knack for winning the ball in dangerous positions and keeping the possession and keeping the ball going.”
Phommahasey hasn’t scored yet this season, but she could.
“She can play pretty much anywhere on the field,” Bigelow said. “She has a knack for getting open. When she gets the ball she has a way of keeping it. And not necessarily scoring goals, but without her we’d not score as many goals.”
Bigelow has an offensive threat in training for when Hakes, who has accepted a soccer scholarship to Westminster College in Utah, graduates. It’s Hake’s sister, Autumn, who is a freshman and has scored four goals despite playing defense most of the season.
“She’s going to be good,” Bigelow said. “She’s also got that desire to be successful. She’s got that will.”
Bigelow can coach mechanics, teach technique in how to dribble up field and score on the run, but he can’t put the fire into the heart.
“It’s got to be there,” Bigelow said. “She’s got the fire.”
With Hill and Hummer, who was second-team, all-league last season, back at midfield, the Rams have the experience and the skill at midfield to control the ball. Hill and Hummer are team captains.
“They play really well together,” Bigelow said. “And we’ve got if not the league’s leading scorer one of them in Savannah. She’s just a goal scorer.”
She’s also a good passer. She had four assists in the win against Lincoln. North Thurston’s big-score offense and tough defense has added up to a winning formula.