Gateway: Sports

Gig Harbor soccer plans patient approach with replacing last year’s top two scorers

Junior forward Jaylynn Barton, senior midfielder Carolyn Merrick, senior midfielder Bailey Werner and senior defender Sophia Hatteberg, from left, of the Gig Harbor girls soccer team all figure to play a large role in Gig Harbor’s success this season.
Junior forward Jaylynn Barton, senior midfielder Carolyn Merrick, senior midfielder Bailey Werner and senior defender Sophia Hatteberg, from left, of the Gig Harbor girls soccer team all figure to play a large role in Gig Harbor’s success this season. phaley@thenewstribune.com

The Gig Harbor High School girls soccer team, which went undefeated in the regular season last year, lost its top two goal scorers to graduation in now-Seattle University freshman Leahi Manthei and Idaho University freshman Kaysie Bruce.

It’s a tough duo to replace.

“With losing those two seniors, it may be hard to pick it up in the beginning,” said senior attacking midfielder Carolyn Merrick. “So my expectation is that we don’t give up and we just persevere. I just expect 110 percent always.”

Gig Harbor may not be quite as dynamic as last season, but the Tides should still be a contender for the Class 3A South Sound Conference, having a solid core and an exciting and eager crop of younger players.

Junior Jaylynn Barton and sophomore Alyssa Gray both showed off their pace and goal-scoring ability a season ago. Barton said she learned a lot playing alongside Manthei.

“It was good to learn from her because she’s so tenacious and goes for the goal,” Barton said. “I think I can learn a lot from that — just learning to take more shots. She always had an opportunity to take shots. Even if her back was to the goal, she always found a way to get it in there. With me, I don’t really do that as much. I’d like to do that more.”

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Gig Harbor coach Stephanie Cox is back at the helm of the girls soccer team for another season. Peter Haley phaley@thenewstribune.com

While Barton will try to mimic Manthei, Merrick will do her best impersonation of Bruce, hoping to bring creativity and a goal-scoring threat to the center mid position.

“(Bruce) really mentored me,” Merrick said. “I’m going to try to be just like her and pick up the role.”

Gig Harbor finished last season with a 17-1 record, not losing until a 2-0 defeat to Roosevelt in the Class 3A state tournament.

“We had so much support from the community during that run,” Barton said. “It was really nice.”

But the players were disappointed to flame out early in the state tournament.

“When we got into playoffs, we kind of lost that a bit,” Barton said. “I think we were too ahead of ourselves, thinking we’re going to win state. We need to take every game one at a time.”

Merrick thinks the sense of urgency will be better in the playoffs this time around.

“Last year was disappointing to fall short in the playoffs,” Merrick said. “I think our determination is a lot better this year.”

Part of the issue was playing in a weak conference a season ago. Gig Harbor steamrolled its way through the SSC 3A without much resistance.

“We weren’t ready for the better teams in the playoffs,” Merrick said. “We just have to really go at it during practice. Our best competition is ourselves. Our coaches really harp on us if we’re being too soft. We really want to be prepared for the playoffs this year.”

Gig Harbor, Central Kitsap and Peninsula all appear strong on paper and should make the SSC 3A title chase interesting this season.

Gig Harbor is 1-1 overall on the young season, dropping a 4-1 decision to Union and bouncing back with a 3-0 win over West Valley of Yakima. Gig Harbor will open league play with road games against North Thurston on Tuesday, Sept. 12 and against Capital on Thursday, Sept. 14.

The Tides will face crosstown rival Peninsula on Sept. 19 at Roy Anderson Field, on the new turf for the first time. First kick is set for 7 p.m.

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