Gateway: Sports

Despite two key losses and a new coach, Peninsula girls soccer looking to contend in 3A SSC

Peninsula knows their team will look a lot different this year. Moreover, they’ve embraced it.

Set aside the team’s 11-8-2 record and fourth place finish in their league last season. The girls simply want to pave the way for the future, as new head coach Kim Demianiw and a wave of incoming seniors represent the new-look Seahawks.

“We’re doing this all for the legacy,” said senior Dani Rodriguez, standing among her teammates at Roy Anderson Field. “We want this year to be a fresh start and for everyone to follow what we set up for them.”

Coach Demianiw and her players see eye-to-eye on the matter.

“I think what we want to accomplish the most has less to do with winning games and more to do with building a strong culture within our program,” Demianiw said. “To bring a positive outlook from our players, and I think overall the sense of playing for each other. Having the faith and confidence in each other, and the desire to win games for each other.”

But don’t let a culture-building mindset distract you from the team’s win-now mentality. The Seahawks want nothing more than to build on last year’s season and return to the state playoffs, where they look to make a run that results in a finish beyond the first round.

“We’re regrouping after losing a few seniors, but our goal is to make it to state, and bond,” said senior Lena Janson. “We have a new team dynamic, new coaches, new everything. It’s our turn to get into gear.”

Despite the loss of graduated seniors, including midfielder Madison Grande and goalie Ali Campigotto, the team will recoup players lost to injury last season, particularly during their more physical matches.

“Last year, we had six to ten injuries, right in the middle of the season,” said senior Bethany Lund. “It set us back, and we’re hoping to stay healthy this year.”

The team agrees their most physical contests came against Timberline, with one match ending in a 3-3 draw and the other in a 3-2 defeat. It’s also the matchup Coach Demianiw looks forward to most this year.

“Last year, we played Timberline and had a couple rough games there, so we’re looking forward to playing Timberline again,” Demianiw said.

Peninsula will matchup against Timberline this season on Oct. 4 at home, and hit the road for South Sound Stadium in Lacey to face the Blazers Oct. 29.

And the Seahawks’ biggest rival? It’s the team Peninsula emphatically exclaimed in unison when asked.

The defending state champion, the 23-0 Gig Harbor Tides.

“Gig Harbor games are deeper than any other game, because it brings the Fish Bowl rivalry into soccer,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone gets excited and hyped up about it, and it brings this nervousness whenever we play them.”

That nervousness will arrive for both squads on October 8 and 31, when the Seahawks and Tides face off.

Junior Chelsea Smith believes the Seahawks can hand Gig Harbor their first loss in the series since 2017.

“We know what teams we’re playing, so we know what to expect for next year,” Smith said. “There are physical teams, and we’re prepared for them. We have a lot to prove.”

Senior Elyse Donley took it a step further.

“Last year we really worked hard, and I feel like going into this year, we know what to expect,” Donley said. “From [Gig Harbor] losing seniors and us gaining new freshmen, I think we’re going to be the team to beat.”

The intense Gig Harbor-Peninsula rivalry may go even deeper in the soccer realm. Some Seahawk players are lifelong friends with their opponents, many playing together in youth leagues before reaching the high school level.

Janson dismantled the idea of friendship during the rivalry.

“We’re friends after the game.”