For the second time in the past three seasons, Stephanie Cox’s Gig Harbor High soccer team has put together a perfect regular season.
This year’s team posted a 16-0 overall record with a 14-0 mark in the Class 3A South Sound Conference. The Tides capped off the regular season in style, knocking off crosstown rival Peninsula 7-1 on Oct. 25.
Gig Harbor outscored its opponents 81-4, only allowing three goals in 14 games in league play. Cox, who played on an undefeated national championship team at the University of Portland in 2005 as a defender, said she seems similarities between that Pilots team and the Tides.
“The goal was not to allow the other team any shots,” Cox said. “I see that same mentality from this high school team. I was just incredibly impressed with their mentality and their focus. It shows a lot of maturity, which is really special for high school girls. We have a really solid back line.”
But allowing just four goals was not just because of a solid back line. It also involved cohesive play throughout the midfield and putting pressure on opponents whenever and wherever they have the ball.
“It’s not just our goalkeeper, it’s not just our back line,” Cox said. “It comes from us pressuring on the ball all over the field.”
Washington State University commit Alyssa Gray, a junior forward, led the team with 24 goals and nine assists. Freshman Lily Paulson scored 19 goals and tallied eight assist. Seniors Tatum Griffin and Madisen McCutcheon tallied eight assists.
“In our third year in the South Sound Conference, we knew our opposition a little more, but we just focused on ourselves, the standard we had to uphold,” Cox said. “Undefeated, having 12 shutouts, I think that’s really special. That comes from a collective team effort.”
Gig Harbor’s players and coaches hadn’t discussed the prospect of an undefeated regular season much before it concluded. While it ultimately came to fruition, the team’s ambitions lie far beyond the regular season.
Gig Harbor’s postseason will begin in a revamped format in the West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament.
In years past, the team only played one game to qualify for the state tournament. That’s not the case this year, as Cox and others advocated during the offseason for a more robust tournament. Each team will have at least two games, and to win the district title, Gig Harbor will have to win three consecutive games, starting at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30 against Peninsula (again) at Roy Anderson Field.
“I think with our coaching staff and players, we know what playoffs is like,” Cox said. “I think the district structure will prepare us to see different opponents. All the players are committed, whether they’re the star goal scorer or the last person on the bench.”
Cox said she hopes the new district format gets the Tides better prepared for the state tournament.
“I’m just hopeful that for our league, that we’ll fare better in state,” Cox said. “If you look at the Metro or KingCo leagues, they have a lot more games headed into state and they’re more battled tested. Having those loser-out games, having that pressure really has prepared those other leagues well.”
While Gig Harbor can lose a game in the district tournament and still advance to the state tournament, keeping the undefeated season alive heading into state is the goal.
“I think our focus has been taking it one game at a time, one moment at a time,” Cox said. “I have 11 seniors in the program, so I’ve just been reminding them that this is going to go by fast. They really have done that — just maximizing every time on the field or off the field. That’s the approach we want to have.”