Jason Johnson wasn’t expecting much when he held his first summer training session in 2009. He had just taken over as coach of Tahoma High’s soccer teams, and he figured a few players would come out and kick some balls around.
Then Brie Hooks showed up.
The Bears’ coaching staff knew nothing about the incoming ninth-grader who, at barely 5 feet tall, stood a foot shorter than many of the senior boys in attendance that day.
“This tiny little thing comes out and she jumps onto the field without any fear,” Johnson said, “and she takes out my star center back (defender) within five minutes.
“I looked at my assistant coach and said, ‘Who is this?!’”
Four years later, Hooks has grown only an inch – but has advanced leaps and bounds in making a name for herself as one of the area’s best midfielders. Not only is she expected to sign today with the University of Colorado on a scholarship, she also is The News Tribune’s 2012 All-Area girls soccer player of the year.
“I’ve always strived to prove myself, especially being small,” said Hooks, a Class 4A all-state selection the past two seasons. “I’m determined to prove that I am just as good and just as strong as people who are 5 or 6 inches taller.”
Johnson said Hooks is a rare player who can play both left- and right-footed. She has scored three of her 15 goals curling in corner kicks, and also has 27 assists.
“It’s not something that comes naturally, but she can actually swing the ball in with her left foot – and has scored,” Johnson said. “She can bend it either way – in and out, left and right – at will.
“The ball bends. It never goes straight – ever.”
Hooks, who got into the sport at age 5 and now plays club soccer for Crossfire Premier, has tried every position on the field, including an unmemorable stint at goalkeeper.
“That was embarrassing,” she said, “because I’m way too small.”
She has always preferred playing up front, not lingering in the backfield.
“I can’t just sit up top and wait for the ball, or be back in defense waiting for one person to make a run so I can defend them,” Hooks said. “I just like to find people and have always been into crossing balls. I know corner (kicks) and crosses are a skill I can do well, so I may as well do it the best I can.”
She was initially looking at colleges on the East Coast – Miami and Dartmouth were high on the list – but decided that she would rather be at a school that travels to play in Washington.
The Buffaloes “are going to have a playmaker for years to come,” Johnson said. “Once she gets out of her shell, she’s going to make plays and blow minds.”
Hooks plans to become a sports psychologist, an interest borne of taking Johnson’s psychology class as a sophomore.
In addition to soccer, she has also played basketball and run track.
“I want to help players get back into the mental game if they’ve been injured or anything else has happened to keep them out,” she said. “That’s super important to me – to be in it not just physically, but mentally, too.”
Hooks’ own mental toughness is why she has persevered through the postseason despite damaging tissue in her foot while tackling a player in Tahoma’s 2-0 shutout of Kentlake on Oct. 23. She has been wearing a boot, and with the exception of the following game, against Kentwood, has been able to play.
“Sitting there, knowing I couldn’t do anything, was awful,” she said.
And she intends to be fully active this weekend. Tahoma, the undefeated SPSL North champion (20-0), takes on defending 4A champion Skyline in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup in a rematch from last season.
The Bears have gotten close to the 4A title, finishing third last season and taking second in 2010.
“We’ve been so close, but I can just feel it,” Hooks said. “With this team, if we keep working hard, I think we can do it.”
THE NEWS TRIBUNE’s 2012 ALL-AREA GIRLS SOCCER TEAM
Player of the year: Brie Hooks, Tahoma
Coach of the year: Frank Hankel, Curtis
Position / Player / School / Year
Forward / Brittainy Canonica / Wilson / Senior
Fast and shifty, team captain led the Rams to their first league title since 1982.
Forward / Mackenzie Henke / Tahoma / Senior
SPSL North co-MVP (20 goals) and Nevada commit can score in a variety of ways.
Forward / Kaylie Rozell / Sumner / Senior
2010 All-Area pick is relentless and edgy; SPSL 2A offensive MVP (29 goals)
Forward / Morgan Weaver / Curtis / Freshman
All-SPSL South pick (17 goals) is leading the next wave of area’s talented strikers.
Midfielder / Sierra Carrington / Puyallup / Junior
Two-time SPSL South first teamer is a tireless, skilled presence in the middle.
Midfielder / Kaysha Darcy / Tahoma / Senior
Really sets up plays with gifted feet and explosive speed (15 goals); Idaho commit.
Midfielder / Celia Vaughn / Gig Harbor / Junior
Top creator of Narrows 4A champs’ spread-it-around attack (eight goals, three assists).
Midfielder / Monica Whitfield / Enumclaw / Senior
Smallish SPSL 3A offensive MVP (five goals, five assists) backs down to no one.
Defender / Andrea Bowman / Bonney Lake / Junior
Astute thinker and strategist at sweeper, she was key in team’s 13 shutouts.
Defender / Sarah Carter / Sumner / Senior
Big, bone-rattling presence, a Gonzaga commit, was SPSL 2A defensive MVP.
Defender / Jessica Udovich / Puyallup / Sophomore
Did her damage between the penalty boxes; SPSL South MVP (nine goals).
Goalkeeper / Sarah Shimer / Federal Way / Senior
Fourteen of 19 opponents scored one goal or fewer against UW commit.
Forward: Krista Jones, Timberline, jr.; Becca McDonald, Tacoma Baptist, sr.; Jennifer Oak, Kentwood, so.; Gabriela Pelogi, Federal Way, so.; Meghan Ward, W.F. West, sr.
Midfielder: Allie Bohnett, Gig Harbor, sr.; Miranda Caballero, South Kitsap, sr.; Jenny Hoefel, Beamer, sr.; Sarah Landram, Kentlake, sr.
Defender: Aly Hirz, Bellarmine Prep, jr.; Dani Watsek, Emerald Ridge, sr.
Goalkeeper: Olivia Brock, Olympia, sr.; Katie Campbell, Peninsula, jr.; Jessica Lange, Sumner, firstname.lastname@example.org