The Tenino High School girls soccer program ended a near decade-long state playoff drought last season under first-year coach Kevin Schultz.
“I think they want to show that it wasn’t a one season thing, but that Tenino girls soccer is a program that’s going to keep growing and competing every year,” said Schultz, who guided the team to its first state playoff berth since 2010 last season.
One of the major reasons that led to Schultz’s optimistic thinking is the monumental increase in player engagement this summer as Tenino constantly had nearly the entire team show up for workouts.
“They are definitely very motivated. I think the state game last year left a sour taste in the younger players’ mouths and showed them what is necessary to take the next step,” said Schultz, whose squad lost to Klahowya, 7-0, in the opening round of the 1A state playoffs last year.
“We put in a lot of work during the summer in practices, scrimmages, conditioning and weight room time. And all those things existed last summer too, but what I think is different this year is we have 10 players who were playing soccer out of season this last year. I don’t think there are a lot of public 1A schools that can say that. The girls are motivated to improve and reach new heights and it shows by how much of their own time they have invested in their own development since the last season ended.”
Leading the charge once again is scoring dynamo Dell, who has simply been unstoppable during her first two years of high school soccer. She has tallied 45 career goals in just 28 matches, including 25 goals in 2018.
“As an athlete I think two things that stand out are her speed and strength,” said Schultz, who initially coached Dell in youth soccer when she was 11. “I think when people first look at her, they don’t expect the burst of speed that she has, but she can make up ground on other players in a blink of an eye. And with that, she gets to her top speed very quickly. As far as strength, I think our athletic director said it perfectly, ‘She’s not afraid to just run through you.’”
Dell also added five assists last year. What makes those numbers even more impressive is the fact she did it in 14 games.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize she had 25 goals and 5 assists last year while dealing with a couple injuries and actually having to sit out a couple of games,” Schultz said.
Dell, who was a first-team all-state selection by the Washington State Soccer Coaches Association in 2018, was an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses during her sophomore season, registering a remarkable six hat tricks.
“I think for her the sky really is the limit,” Schultz said. “I think this year we will have to continue to work with her on becoming a creator for her teammates because we saw even in the summer that teams are really going to put two and three players on her and try to stop her from scoring.”
Dell, however, will hardly be the only option for the Beavers, who went 12-5-1 last season, as they return four players who started in last year’s state playoff game, including Kathryn Fittinger, an outside back who is Tenino’s only senior on the roster in 2019.
In addition to Dell and Fittinger, the Beavers also welcome back starters Megan Letts and Alivia Hunter, who both started every game as freshmen. Letts will stay at center midfield, while Hunter makes the move from outside back to center back.
Sophomores Grace Vestal, who started several games last year, and Morgan Miner, a wing who was one of the first players off the bench, and junior Iris Campesino, who was an all-league player as a freshman, also return.
“The great thing about last year’s seniors was they set an example of how to work hard,” Schultz said. “They had it in their minds they were going to get to state. When I first got hired, I met with the seniors and it was the number one goal we talked about. So their example has carried over to the younger group that remains. I think it helps that three of last year’s freshman are younger siblings of last year’s seniors so they just hold themselves to those high standards. We constantly talk about wanting to take the next step as a program. A few years ago they hardly won any games, then a couple years ago to districts, then last year to state, and now this year we want to continue pushing ourselves to higher standards.”