The accolades and accomplishments keep racking up for Stephanie Cox’s Gig Harbor High School girls soccer team. League champions. West Central III/Southwest bi-district champions. A +85 (no, that’s not a typo) goal-differential. Still perfect, with a 19-0 record.
It’s time to start wondering, is this the year Gig Harbor wins it all?
On paper, the Tides have all the right ingredients.
Start with junior goal-scorer Alyssa Gray, a Washington State University commit who is one of the state’s best finishers and is the team’s leading goal scorer. Complement that with breakout star Lily Paulson, who, despite only being a freshman, is second on the team in goals for the Tides.
Then there’s track star Hannah Carroll, who has brought her speed and savvy to the defensive midfield, stifling opponents’ attack and helping build Gig Harbor’s attack. Add in an exceptionally stingy back line, which has only allowed five goals all season, and only one goal in the bi-district tournament.
Mix in the fact that Gig Harbor has 11 seniors, many of whom have played together on club teams, and the chemistry and leadership component is there.
This is also the first year of the revamped district tournament format. The past two years, Gig Harbor only played in one game to reach the state tournament. This year? Gig Harbor had to win more games, and had the chance to see some different opponents in Stadium and Prairie. Gig Harbor passed both of those tests with flying colors, knocking off Stadium 2-0 and Prairie, 3-0.
Now, an undefeated season would mean a state title, the best season in school history and likely, one of the best soccer seasons the state has ever seen. While the players insisted the undefeated record didn’t mean much early in the season, it has to mean something now.
“It’s something we’re excited about, being 19-0, only having five goals scored on us,” said senior center back Grace Neil. “We’re trying to look past the stats and just keep trucking forward and getting wins.”
Gig Harbor opens the Class 3A state tournament at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6 against West Seattle at Roy Anderson Field. For as much success as Gig Harbor has had under fourth-year head coach Stephanie Cox, success in the state tournament has been elusive.
“This is where we’ve wanted to be all season,” Cox said. “I think (the bi-district) tournament just confirmed our style of play, gave us some confidence. I think sometimes when you just have your conference games, you don’t feel quite fully tested so you’re a bit unsure, a little tentative. So I think having some strong competition, we got through districts and won good games, then we feel confident about what we have to offer.”
For the Tides, “one game at a time” is still the prevailing mantra.
“We’ve definitely thought about the big picture, the state championship and everything,” Carroll said. “But we’re still just taking it one game at a time. We’ve had a great season, this year. But we’re starting 0-0 in the state tournament, basically.”
Cox said she wants to keep things in perspective for the Tides.
“My job as a coach is to not add pressure onto them, it’s to minimize the stats and results and just focus on the next game,” Cox said. “It’s about focusing on our style of play and the things that have made us successful.”
If Gig Harbor beats West Seattle, the Tides will face the winner of the Edmonds-Woodway/Lakeside game in the state quarterfinals.