There were never any guarantees the Tumwater High School girls soccer team was even going to take the field this season.
But that didn’t prevent Riana Geathers and Ainsley Wall from constantly calling players and rounding up the squad for some impromptu coach-less practices over the last eight months or so.
In the end, all that extra effort resulted in another conference title for the Thunderbirds.
With its 3-0 win over visiting W.F. West in the regular season finale, Tumwater capped a spotless season, running its record to a perfect 9-0 and claiming the T-Birds another 2A Evergreen Conference crown. It was a championship run that began all the way back in mid-August and featured numerous starts and stops to the team’s training routine.
Through it all, however, captains Geathers and Wall didn’t waver in their commitment to the program and their teammates. “All the things that they’ve been through I am just so dang proud of them,” said Tumwater Coach Brett Bartlett, who has guided the T-Birds to three consecutive undefeated seasons in conference play. “These kids tried to get ready to play in the summer and that got shut down. We were hoping something would happen in the fall, but it didn’t.”
Then things opened back up in October. That lasted until Thanksgiving before it was shut down once again. The final restart came in January, and through it all, the T-Bird players weathered the storm, practicing on their own for a season that may never have materialize.
“I really started doubting we were going to have a season,” said Geathers, Tumwater’s lone starting senior. “ I thought, ‘There’s no way we were going to have it,’ but we just tried to stay positive during it all.”
That meant whenever the chance presented itself, the Tumwater players, sans coaches, would meet up to practice. “This is my last year playing here,” said Geathers about her approach, “we might as well round up the players and practices. We just told them if they wanted to be as good as we were last year, we better start practicing. So, everyone put on the masks and we came out.”
The message was well received as practices consistently features 30 to 35 players with a high of 38.
“We just love the sport and love to play for each other,” Wall said. “It’s a family here. The hard part was not knowing what was going to happen. We didn’t know if we were going to have a season. When it finally did happen it was amazing.”
The official word came in mid-January, confirming a season, albeit a shortened one, was moving forward.
“They were so excited when we announced we got the clearance,” Bartlett said. “When we got them together that first day of actual training we didn’t know how long we are going to be able to play together. It could be 10 games and then we could be shut down. We could play eight games. We didn’t know. They just knew they wanted to play together as a group for as long as they can.”
“We knew we had to get something going with practices,” Wall said. “We knew the season could happen at any time and we wanted to be ready for it.” And ready they were, as the T-Birds outscored opponents 34-1 during the regular season.
“Our goal coming in was to be undefeated and unscored upon,” Bartlett said. “We did give up one goal. Once that was out of the way we just stayed on the undefeated path. They’ve just rallied around each other.”
Tumwater opened the season with a 7-0 shutout win over Centralia before besting Aberdeen, 4-1. The Bobcats proved to be the only team during the regular season to find the back of the net as the T-Birds, with sophomore Sydney Woods starting as the team’s goalkeeper, proceeded to blank their next seven opponents.
The offensive wealth was spread around equally during season with seven players registering three or more goals. Juniors Makayla McGilvrey and Aly Schultz paced Tumwater, each collecting a team-high seven goals. They were followed by sophomore Cierra Larson (6 goals) and Geathers (5), while Wall, sophomore Kaari Little and junior Austin Laposki each tallied three goals on the year.
“We’ve waited so long for this season and to come out and be undefeated it feels pretty awesome,” Wall said.
“It been so special to be able to play at Tumwater these last four years,” Geathers added. “It feels so good knowing we did all of this as a team.”