Olympia’s Kabel comes up clutch in goal

mwochnick@theolympian.comNovember 22, 2013 

These days, Sophie Kabel’s lips are sealed.

Oh, she’s more than happy to talk about the Olympia High School girls soccer team’s road to the Class 4A state semifinals – the program’s deepest state run since 1995. Or how the close-knit team of 22 players has led them into a playoff-frenzy the past two weeks.

But ask her about her success in shootouts and the Bears goalie becomes quiet.

“I should keep those a secret for now,” said Kabel.

What she’s done, though, says a lot. The sophomore has managed to save seven penalty-kick shots in three playoff games, helping Olympia register three shootout wins in four playoff games. The other game, she was credited with a shutout and 10 saves in a 2-0 win over Edmonds-Woodway.

She does allow this, however, in regards to how much practice playing keeper requires. “A ton,” she said.

At 15 years old and 5-foot-5, the first-year varsity keeper is a big reason why the Bears (15-3-2) are in the Final Four. Olympia plays Issaquah (14-4-1) at 8 p.m. Friday at Puyallup’s Sparks Stadium for a shot at Saturday’s 4 p.m Class 4A state title game.

Coach Tess Effland said as much as skill and hand-eye coordination is needed to be a successful keeper, the mental aspect is just as important. Kabel, who has allowed eight goals in 20 games, is mentally tough, Effland said.

“I’ve never had a keeper that can stay mentally focused the entire 80 minutes,” Effland said. “When we go into (penalty kicks), the girls know she’s going to do everything she can to get us to the next level. If it wasn’t for Sophie, we are not getting out of districts.”

Puyallup coach Matt White can attest to that.

Kabel stopped three penalty kick attempts in Olympia’s 1-0 (3-1 shootout) win over the Vikings in a winner-to-state game Nov. 9, notching her second consecutive game with three penalty-kick saves. White thought he knew Kabel’s skill set after watching film from the Olympia-Thomas Jefferson game two days earlier, but that changed when it came time for the penalty kicks.

“She knows exactly where the shot is going and gets there,” White said. ... “Yeah, she’s a monster at PKs.”

Strategically planned when it came time for his team’s shootout with Olympia, White started off with whom he called his “disguised lefty” and planned to have another left-footer be the fifth shooter.

That never happened, though.

“We never got to No. 5 because she (Kabel) saved three in a row,” White said.

Since the win over Edmonds-Woodway, Kabel has been forced into the pressure situations in each of the Bears playoff games against Thomas Jefferson, Puyallup and then Inglemoor last Friday. That game ended in a 1-1 tie but after two scoreless five-minute overtimes, Olympia won the shootout, 4-2, sending Kabel and her teammates into the state semifinals.

“That was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far this season,” she said. “It was amazing.”

As a member of the 4A Narrows League, Olympia doesn’t play in overtime or shootouts; two regular-season games resulted in draws. So how come a team that doesn’t have shootouts in the regular season win three of their four playoff games via shootouts?

Practice.

It began roughly 40 days ago, Effland said. Every practice ends with a penalty kicks for all 22 players, and that’s made the difference this postseason.

“It’s definitely a switch that goes on,” Kabel said. “It’s one of those things that you lock into and you really focus to get it done.”

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com @MegWochnick

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