Boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. They normally run around in separate packs – at school, socially and in athletics.
But at Tacoma Baptist, they have united to form one of the best Class 2B soccer programs in the state.
On their own, the Crusaders boys have been on an elite run for several years, winning back-to-back state titles in 2008 and 2009, reaching the semifinals in 2010 and getting to the quarterfinals a year ago.
The makeup of the roster is different this season and two of the new players, well, use makeup. Two girls – senior Becca McDonald and junior Bryanna Slattery, club teammates with Washington Premier Fury U-17 – were allowed to try out.
In fact, up until last week, McDonald was the team’s leading scorer. She now has 17 goals after her second hat trick of the season Monday in a 12-0 win over Evergreen Lutheran.
“It’s not very often we see that,” Tacoma Baptist coach Josh Narayan said. “I have enough guys to field a team. But I also thought (the girls) could help us. It has worked out for the best.”
Off and on, the Crusaders have had a girls soccer team. McDonald played on it as a 10th grader in 2010. But last season, the school dissolved the program because too few girls turned out.
Instead of playing for another girls team in the area, McDonald went out for cross country, finishing 17th at the 2B championships in Pasco in her first season as a distance runner. And Slattery played volleyball.
This season, the Crusaders explored options, and approved girls to play on the boys soccer team.
“A couple of the (guys) were a little skeptical with having girls on the team and how that was going to happen,” said midfielder Casey Slattery, who leads Tacoma Baptist with 18 goals, and is the younger twin brother of Bryanna.
“But I have watched (McDonald and Bryanna Slattery) play every weekend in club. They are top five on our team.”
McDonald is not only one of the quickest players on the soccer team, but also one of the fastest students in the school. She was the state runner-up last season in the 2B girls 100 and 200 meters, and anchored the Crusaders’ winning teams in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
McDonald mainly plays forward, but Narayan will sometimes shift her to the midfield. In her second varsity match against Sea-Tac League rival Bear Creek, she scored her first goal against the boys.
“Casey crossed the ball in,” McDonald said. “I was in the (penalty) box and I got a foot on it. There were a lot of people in there but I got to it.”
McDonald said it did not take long for her to develop on-field chemistry with her teammates.
“I think the guys trusted me right away – all of them – but I didn’t think it would be like that at all.” McDonald said. “Everybody has been excited for me, telling me, ‘Good job’ and how they were glad I was on the team, regardless if I was a girl.”
Withstanding a few barbs is all part of playing with the guys, McDonald said.
“I have heard a few people say, ‘It is a girl,’ and they do not respect me at first, or why do they have to mark a girl. But once the action starts, that goes away,” she said.
Then there is the physical punishment. McDonald is 5-foot-4, 115 pounds – usually much smaller than the boys defending her. She says she does not get tired going up and down the field at a faster pace, but she usually leaves the field with her share of aches and pains.
“I have never had as many bruises as I do now. I feel extremely sore and bruised, and it hurts to walk up the stairs,” McDonald said. “It’s from getting kicked everywhere.”
Bryanna Slattery is a part-time starter. She plays either left or right midfielder. While not as fast as McDonald, she is just as fearless on the field, Narayan said.
“Guys are a lot bigger and faster, so just having to keep up with them physically has been a challenge,” Bryanna Slattery said. “I had my doubts in the beginning but after that first game, it did not seem like that big a deal anymore.”
While not unprecedented, girls playing 2B soccer with the boys is uncommon. Grace Academy has two goal scorers in Chanel Thompson and Rachel Mulvanny. Northwest Christian of Colbert has Katie McFaul as a scoring threat.
“It is a sport that gets physical for them at times,” Narayan said. “But they (McDonald and Slattery) are quiet, and just keep on going. If they get knocked down, they get up and run – and do not turn to the officials for help.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442