There’s dominance and then there’s what the Tumwater High School girls soccer program has done to the 2A Evergreen Conference over the last four seasons.
Just how overpowering have the Thunderbirds been? Well, when the final horn sounded on Tumwater’s regular season finale – a 6-0 drubbing of Shelton – it marked the fourth consecutive year the T-Birds captured an unblemished conference championship, meaning this year’s crop of seniors will exit the program without ever losing a conference match.
“It’s pretty crazy to think about winning (a conference title) all four years,” said defender Ainsley Wall, a four-year member of the varsity and one of nine seniors on this year’s roster. “The motivation was to always keep the streak alive. I’m just always happy when I’m playing with these people. I love this group. We’re like a family.”
A family that has ran roughshod through the competition, especially over the last two seasons.
A year after posting an undefeated 10-0 mark, the T-Birds went 15-1 during the regular season this year with their only setback coming in a 2-0 loss to undefeated Camas, the top-ranked overall program in the state and the favorites to claim the 4A crown this season. And it proved to be a valuable loss considering the squad used it as a learning opportunity.
They more than responded from their lone defeat by winning their final nine matches in the regular season, outscoring opponents a combined 43-2.
“This senior class has just been fantastic,” said John Hayes, who shares head coaching duties with Brett Barlett. “They’re just a wonderful group. They work well together. They are all friends. You couldn’t ask for a better group to work with over the last four years. They’ve just been phenomenal.”
That they have, both on and off the field, according to both coaches. “They’re just kids who really get along together and love playing soccer together,” Bartlett added. “They’re more like sisters than teammates.”
The T-Birds will now look to navigate through district tournament play with the goal of advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 2016.
“We’ve had a lot of league wins but have struggled once we get to state,” Wall said, “but not this year. We’re going this year.”
The team, despite posting a perfect record last season, did not secure a state playoff appearance as the tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“We really started thinking about this season right when last season ended,” Wall said. “The moment things ended last year we all said, ‘When do the summer workouts start?’ Everyone was pretty excited to get back out here and win again.”
In addition to Wall, this year’s roster also features fellow seniors Austin Laposky, Kaitlyn Hansen, Araceli Culp, Makayla McGilvrey, Rylie Simmons, Isabella Lund, Bailey Colard and Kylie Wells,
“We knew we were going to be good (this year). I don’t know if we knew we were going to be this good,” Barlett said. “Part of the reason for that is we had lost a majority of our attack from last year, but we brought in some really good players this year who are going to be good players for a long time for us.”
While Tumwater has certainly benefited from an experienced senior class, the T-Birds also field one of the state’s best freshmen classes with three first-year players, Emalyn Shaffer, Lucy Bergford and Ava Jones, all playing significant roles this season. The trio have combined to score nearly 25 goals with Shaffer and Jones ranking first and second, respectively, in scoring, each surpassing double digits in goals.
“We knew we had a big core coming back and then the freshmen got here, and made us even better,” Hayes said. “Freshmen usually need a year to develop. Every once in a while, you get one that steps in and contributes, but all our freshmen have all just stepped up. The speed, the ability, they’ve just contributed all season long. They’ve made the seniors better and the juniors better and the sophomores better. And our seniors are the first off the bench celebrating when our freshmen score. There’s no ego on this team.”
Which has been by design by the seniors. “We fell so connected even though we’re all different ages,” said McGilvrey, one of the team’s top goal scorers this year with nine tallies. “When I was a freshman, I didn’t really feel connected with the seniors. It was really scary for me, but I feel like our seniors this year are really connected with the other classes. It’s helped build a great chemistry.”
The hope now is to have it all add up to a deep run in the state tournament.
“This is the year. We’re going to try and make a run,” Hayes said. “We’re striding in the right direction and every day we’re getting better.”