Makenzie Burks isn’t afraid to let you know she wants the ball.
If you’re on the opposing team you better watch out.
If you’re her teammate, you still better watch out.
“She’s always hyper, she has a lot of attitude, she’s sassy,” said junior Nyah Rivera, who is also Burks’ cousin. “She always has something to say.”
The Stadium High School junior forward has reason to talk.
Her play-making ability has propelled the Tigers to an 18-0 record and a berth in the 3A state semifinal game for the first time since 2004.
Burks is simply “a gamer,” said her coach Adam Becker.
“She knows how to read the game. She just has ball sense,” Becker said.
Burks recorded 23 goals in the regular season. In the playoffs she scored both goals in a 2-1 state first-round win over Roosevelt, and then had a goal and two assists in Stadium’s 4-0 quarterfinal win over Prairie.
She was selected as the Pierce County League’s MVP, and now she can add The News Tribune’s All-Area girls soccer player of the year to her résumé.
“How she words things is very strong, which is helpful for her in the attacking third because when she wants the ball, she’ll get it,” senior Kiara Rivera said. “Which has led to most of her goals demanding the ball at her feet then taking on players one-on-one.”
“She’s a really strong player, she helps the team out a lot with her aggressiveness and technical ability,” fellow junior Mo Nagel said about Burks. “Whenever I cross her the ball she always finds a way to create space for herself.”
Her personality off the field, however, isn’t what you might think. When she’s not being sassy she’s being silly.
“Her bubbly goofiness on the training ground doesn’t transfer to the game,” Becker said. “It’s funny, it’s one thing that most coaches would worry about is training, keeping a high level, keeping the intensity, keeping the focus. Well, this group, including Kenzie, are lackadaisical, they’re comical, they’re everything but wanting to focus.”
Rather than fight it, Becker allows them to have fun. To a point.
But even on the field, Burks can only stay serious for so long, especially if she scores, which happens quite often.
“When she crosses onto the field, when she crosses that yellow line, something clicks,” Becker said. “She’s focused, she’s not that bubbly person, until she scores and her smile lights up the room.”
Maybe that comes from her brother, TNT first-team All-Area boys soccer selection, Kendall Burks. But her mother, Keri Burks, certainly takes credit for her affinity for soccer. Keri grew up in Ipswich, England, before she met her husband, Trent Burks, who is from Alabama but in the Air Force and was stationed England. He was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in 1998 when they moved to the South Sound.
And Keri made sure their kids had to play soccer. She’s an avid Chelsea fan.
Makenzie has no Premier League loyalty. Her favorite team is Stadium’s.
Her love of life and soccer is perhaps partly why this team has done so well under the pressure as they have advanced further into the state tournament.
“Being able to come this far my junior year is amazing, it’s a thrill,” Burks said. “We’re just ready to pounce on the next team.”
Straight to the point, not overstated, with a dash of fun thrown in.
That’s how Burks talks and how she plays.
Six minutes into the second half of the game against Prairie, Burks lined up to take a corner kick on the right side. Being left-footed, Burks is especially dangerous from that side. The ref blew the whistle for play to resume and Burks struck the ball. It rocketed on a line and then curved just inside the near post beating Falcons goaltender Jennah Farrell.
Burks ran toward her teammates beaming and took a couple jubilant jumps into the air.
The goal gave the Tigers a commanding 3-0 lead and effectively put the game away.
Pounce complete. And nothing needed to be said.