It’s hard to tell what exactly makes the Cascade Christian High girls soccer team play so well.
The Cougars, who entered the week 9-0 and just wrapped up a perfect month of September, look like one of the top teams in Class 1A, backed by an offense that’s seemingly can’t miss finding a shot on target.
“Last year, we played basically with one forward up top, and it was just me,” said senior forward Hailey Brandner, who has nine goals while playing up front this season with Nicole Soupley. “It’s nice having someone to pass to as we both are looking to pass through-balls to each other. On (goal kicks), we have a system where I head it and she runs through and she scores. It’s almost better for the team that (Soupley is) stepping up for us this year.”
On (goal kicks), we have a system where I head it and she runs through and she scores. It’s almost better for the team that she’s stepping up for us this year.
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Cascade Christian has scored 45 goals over its first nine games, averaging five goals per contest as the offense has been off to a hot start. It’s a team that has leaned on Brandner (nine goals) and Soupley, the state’s leading scorer, with 18 goals on the season.
“We are so in-tuned this year,” Souply, a junior, said. “It takes every single person on the field for it to work out perfectly like that. It has to go through each person for me to score. It’s (our) connection to know the runs well, know the passes we’re going to make.”
So this makes Cascade Christian an offensively-driven team, right? Not so fast.
“Having a goal keeper like (Kierstin Patefield) is great. The front line of defense is the forwards; (opponents) have to break that line and get through us,” Ashlyn Hannus, a senior midfielder, said. “Kierstin is that last line of defense. But they have to go through all of us, and it’s our job to keep the ball.”
Even with a back line filled with underclassman, the Cougar defense has been ridiculously hard to find a shot against.
The result has led to Patefield earning a shutout in six games, while the defense as a whole has only allowed four goals (good for plus-41 goal ratio) to opponents all season, with the season-opening 6-2 win over Orting the only time Cascade Christian conceded multiple goals this season.
I think that (with) our defensive line being so young, they look to other people to communicate with them like a team. Learning is just helping them greatly, and that’s where we’re strong.
“I think that (with) our defensive line being so young, they look to other people to communicate with them like a team,” said Patefield, who along with Abby Zoccola are the only seniors on the Cougars’ defense. “Learning is just helping them greatly, and that’s where we’re strong.”
It’s a defensive unit that’s always adapting, minute by minute of every game.
With a sturdy defense, a lights-out goal keeper in Patefield, and an explosive offense, it’s hard to know what exactly is making it all work. Most of the players are still in place from last year, when the Cougars were labeled as young team with only two seniors. Even without much turnover, there has to be some reason these Cougars are racing toward the 1A Nisqually League title after starting 3-0 in league play.
“I’m seeing we’re all working together,” senior midfielder Anna Jennings said. “And we’re all connecting. It’s awesome and it’s fun to play when we’re all connecting and playing really well together.”
I’m seeing we’re all working together. And we’re all connecting. It’s awesome and it’s fun to play when we’re all connecting and playing really well together.
That’s it — chemistry.
Not just chemistry, but impeccable harmony on the pitch that has led to the start of the season. It’s the ability to see, speak and react to the game around each other that has Cascade Christian buzzing each game. And the best example of that team chemistry is the selflessness the team plays with. The Cougars have combined for 41 assists as a team, with Jennings leading the team with nine, and Soupley, Brandner and Grace Jung right behind her with eight apiece.
“We’re lifting each other up. When something goes wrong, we pick each other up,” Jennings added. “When we do something really good, we’re praising each other. It makes you feel good when a teammate is picking you up like that. It makes you want to play harder as a team.”
“I think it’s the girls that came out ... they want to play and they want to be the best.” Patefield added.
Whatever they have been doing has Cascade Chrisitian primed and ready to claim the Nisqually League title over the next couple of weeks. With a 3-0 league record so far and five of their six remaining games league matches, the Cougars are on the cusp of claiming the title.
“It’s the combination that we have a super strong group of seniors that are determined to make this last season their best,” co-coach Clark Jennings said. “It’s also the younger girls on the team believing that we’re strong. It’s not because of one player that we’re winning.”
Cascade Christian travels to Seattle Christian (2-2, 1-0) on Thursday (Oct. 6), before playing Vashon (4-2-2, 0-1-1) on Saturday (Oct. 8) at Sunset Chev Stadium.