The Gig Harbor High School girls soccer team went 15-3 and won a league title last season, making it difficult to imagine this year’s team could be even better.
Gig Harbor loses Class 3A South Sound Conference MVP Carolyn Merrick to graduation, but returns much of the rest of its roster, including Washington State commit Alyssa Gray, who had a breakout year as a sophomore last season for the Tides, outside mid Jaylynn Barton, and speedy midfielder Hannah Carroll, who should cover plenty of ground for the Tides.
“I think we might be a little better (than last year),” said Barton, now a senior. “We have some good freshmen who are ready to step up and replace some of that production.”
Barton said the team is more versatile than a season ago.
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“We have people that can play in different positions,” she said. “It’ll be good for fresh legs and just also seeing different players in different positions. I think we’ll be more dynamic than last year. We have more speed, more confidence. Our attack should be really strong.”
That attack will be led by Gray, and Barton, primarily, who should be the best 1-2 punch Gig Harbor has had since 2016, when current Seattle University player Leahi Manthei and current University of Idaho player Kaysie Bruce suited up for the Tides.
“Last year, we were able to score in so many different ways,” said fourth-year coach Stephanie Cox. “I think all of the players have really developed over the offseason. I think our seniors are really owning it, taking things with authority. With Alyssa, she’s more polished. I think it’s just going to be pretty smooth this year.”
Gray is ready to take her game to the next level this season for Gig Harbor, but is taking an unselfish approach.
“I want to create for other people to score,” Gray said. “It’s more, ‘How can they benefit from me playing up top?’”
Junior Claire Bosselmann returns in goal for the Tides, and senior Grace Neil anchors the defense at one of the two center back positions.
Gig Harbor will primarily set up in a 4-4-2 formation this season with a diamond midfield.
Gray isn’t getting too far ahead of herself, looking at this year’s squad.
“We just want to take it one game at a time, see what our weaknesses are and what we need to work on,” she said.
“And we have to make sure we don’t fall apart in the first round of state,” Gray said.
While Gig Harbor steamrolled through the South Sound Conference, the Tides were bounced by Bellevue in the opening round of the state tournament, losing the game on a penalty-kick shootout.
“I think we left everything out there,” Cox said. “A huge goal for me is just to have symmetry throughout our program. I’m excited for all our program. Just going to another level, as far as the total package.”
Gig Harbor figures to be the favorite once again in the South Sound Conference. While the players aren’t necessarily already looking ahead to the postseason, advancing further this year is something on their minds.
“I really want to get far in state,” Barton said. “Of course I want to win the whole thing, but definitely getting farther than we did the last couple years. We kind of have hit ruts and fallen out. We want to hold our place, be stronger and get past the next level.”
GIG HARBOR SOCCER SCHEDULE
Sept. 8: at Bellevue, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11: Timberline, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Central Kitsap, 7:15 p.m.
Sept. 15: Union, 4 p.m.
Sept. 18: Shelton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: at North Thurston, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: at Capital, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Yelm, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2: Peninsula, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Timberline, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9: Central Kitsap, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: at Shelton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16: North Thurston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18: Capital, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23: at Yelm, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25: at Peninsula, 7 p.m.