Ever since Matt White took over coaching the boys and girls soccer teams at Puyallup High, something new happened each Signing Day.
As the program grew under White’s watch, so did the number of players who would go on to play soccer at the next level, with this year’s class of six Vikings marking his largest group of commitments since taking over both programs.
The group celebrated Signing Day by inking their name on the dotted line during a ceremony Feb. 3 at the high school’s library.
“I was just telling Jim (Meyerhoff, Puyallup’s athletic director), the first year I came here, we had zero (players sign),” White said. “Nobody went to play soccer at all, and they were not interested in it. They were burnt and they were worn out when they were done. Since then, we had another (sign), and then we had another and another sign.”
Kids are finishing their time (here), they’re finishing their program and they are happy to play together, and happy to keep playing.
Matt White, Puyallup soccer coach
This year’s class of had five from the girls team: Saige Lyons (Eastern Washington), Jordyn Bartelson (Western Washington), Kory Larkin (Pierce College), Leah Nisco (Pierce) and Maddy Wheless (Pierce), topping last year’s number of four.
“Kids are finishing their time (here), they’re finishing their program and they are happy to play together, and happy to keep playing,” White added. “They think this is fun. I want to keep playing.”
Trevor Lee rounded out the six as the Puyallup High senior and Crossfire Academy U-17/18 player signed his commitment with Seattle Pacific University.
“This last was kind of crazy ... I committed over a year and a half ago,” Lee said. “It’s been crazy especially because it was (my) last high school season. I just got a lot of accomplishments, something I’m very proud of, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates, coaches or anyone there helping me out along the way. Hectic year, but (it) ended good.”
It was a bittersweet moment with Lee’s signing as it marked the end of his Puyallup soccer career with him joining Crossfire Academy in lieu of his senior season high school season.
“I told him, ‘Dude, if you’re good enough to play at the next level, go play at the next level,’” White joked. “We have plenty of guys back, so we’ll be all right.”
Lee missed half of his junior season, but still came away with all-league honors, with Puyallup boys team sweeping league with an undefeated season heading into the Class 4A state bracket.
Bartelson and Lyons each kept it close to home with their choices, as family was first and foremost on these Vikings’ minds.
With a deep attachment to her family, Bartelson decided that a little more than two-hour drive away from her family was all distance she could handle. Before deciding, Bartelson drew a circle on a map stating she wouldn’t go to a school outside those lines.
Fortunately, Western, in Bellingham, fell within those boundaries.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I could be within a short drive from home,” Bartelson admitted after making her commitment early January. “I still have siblings in school, and I want to still be there for them when I can.”
Lyons’ choice was much clearer as family ties led the star stellar forward to Eastern, in Cheney.
“Both my parents went there (to Eastern), so it makes it even more awesome,” Lyons said. “I’m so excited because I met the girls (team), and I’ve met the commits on our unofficial visit and I like them a lot.”
It just makes it all that more fun knowing Kory (Larkin) and Maddy (Wheless) will be playing with me.
Defense is heading Pierce’s way as fullbacks Larkin and Nisco will be joining goalkeeper Wheless to help improve the Raiders backline after a season where the trio contributed to conceding 14 goals.
The 14 goals allowed in a season was one of the stingiest efforts a defense has produced since White took over the girls program.
“I’m super excited as I get live at home. I got a good scholarship, and I get to still keep continuing with my best friends, Leah and Maddy,” Larkin said. “It’s super fun.”
“It’s really surprising ... I wasn’t expecting to play soccer at the next level until a few months ago,” Nisco added. “At first, I thought it was nothing ... but then I just really thinking about the benefits ... it just makes it all that more fun knowing Kory and Maddy will be playing with me.”