Callie Barnett knew the injury was bad as she hobbled off the field.
Barnett was a few weeks away from starting her freshman year at Olympia High School and was looking forward to making an impact on the girls soccer team despite her young status.
A severely broken right ankle changed all that.
As the medics cared for Barnett, she immediately asked the first thought that entered her head.
“I asked them if they could just pop it back into place so I could go back out and play,” Barnett said. “I just wanted to play.”
Barnett would have to wait more than a year before that occur. Her ankle was completely shattered. An eight-inch steel plate was inserted during surgery. Before rehab even got started, she was in a cast for six long months.
The broken ankle hurt. The 12 months without playing the sport she loved hurt more.
“There was never a time (during the injury) where I didn’t want to play soccer,” Barnett said. “My motivation the entire time was just to get back out there and play again. It really made me realize how much I love the game.”
Barnett, now a junior captain for the Bears, returned last year, earning all-league honorable mention honors in the tough-as-nails 4A South Puget Sound League and helping Olympia advance to the state playoffs.
Her story of resilience, however, could apply to the entire Olympia program – the Bears get knocked down, but always find a way to get back up stronger than ever.
“The whole team mindset last year was focused on redemption, coming back from being down, pushing through,” said senior forward Lauren Forster, who joins Barnett as one of the Bears’ captains. “If you make a mistake, you get back up and learn from it. It’s kind of our theme around here.”
Olympia doesn’t have to look too far for examples of gumption. In addition to Barnett, senior Makayla Soh lost her entire junior season due to a torn ACL. She’s back this year playing a pivotal role for the Bears’ defense.
Last year, the entire team was able to rally after being knocked down.
Finishing fifth in the 4A SPSL, Olympia entered the 2018 postseason as a considerable longshot. They won back-to-back loser-out matches at the district tournament before besting league champion Puyallup to claim a No. 1 seed into the state tournament.
“There is some momentum and the growth we experienced last year has just carried over as a whole into this year,” coach Tamara Liska said.
Liska has already witnessed her team’s ability to rally this year as the Bears have trailed in several matches, only to come back.
“It would be really great for my heart if we scored first, but the fact that they can come back when down speaks volumes of them,” Liska said. “It’s nice to have these strong athletes who are confident and able to keep composed when we needed them to. You can’t teach them that. It’s just something that comes from within.”
Like it was during last year’s state playoff run, defense is once again one of Olympia’s strengths.
Seniors Lyric Tinnel, who posted a shutout in the Bears’ 2-0 win over Auburn Riverside in last year’s district tournament, and Dahlia Scher have split time as goalkeepers this season, and are backed by one of the league’s premier defenses.
Barnett and Soh are joined by junior defenders Landry McCann and Grace Wilhelm. McCann, who missed the first few games this season with an illness, was a first-team all-league selection the past two years and is arguably the 4A SPSL’s top defender, while Wilhelm joined Barnett as an honorable mention pick as a sophomore.
“It’s really nice to have that pressure and competition during practice,” said Forster, one of the league’s top offensive threats about playing against Olympia’s stout defense. “I think it makes our offense better and pays off during games.”
The Bears are now focused on claiming one of the league’s six berths to the district tournament.
“Last year was just the best feeling ever with how far we went,” Barnett said. “We all want to build off of that.”
Olympia will face Puyallup in a rematch of last year’s district championship at home on October 15. The Bears play their final two regular season home matches on October 24 against Sumner and October 29 against Curtis.
“As a program I feel we’ve really turned a corner. That momentum from last year, that excitement, that energy, it’s there this year. They know what that feels like now,” Liska said. “It’s going to be really fun to see how it all plays out this year.”