High School Sports

Don’t believe in this history-making Life Christian soccer team? They didn’t at first, either

Life Christian’s Naytalia Chapman, Grace Pierson discuss school’s first trip to state soccer semis

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Belief is powerful thing.

For the Life Christian Academy girls soccer team, the concept came in stages this season. During a preseason team meeting, not everyone figured make-the-state-tournament would be one.

Now Life Christian is only in the state for just the second time in school history, but it has made its deepest run ever. The Eagles face Adna at 4 p.m. Friday at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner in the 2B/1B state semifinals.

“I’m really proud of them,” Life Chrisian coach Chris Anderson said. “At the beginning of the year, for some of them, this was something not set in stone.

“The only way you get here is by coming together as a team, and that’s what they did.”

Even though Life Christian (13-4-0) was 8-2 with just four games remaining on their regular-season schedule as they boarded the bus for favored Kalama last month, Anderson and Eagles assistant coach Kennedy Wilson still did not see a state tournament-bound demeanor.

They were not sure they would see it after the two-hour bus drive there, either.

Life Christian trailed 1-0 at halftime. Except the Eagles responded with four goals to earn the 4-2 come-from-behind win.

It wasn’t until the referee blew the final whistle that Anderson finally saw what he had waited over a month to see: unanimous belief.

“They didn’t always have that we’re-going-to-win-this-game mentality,” Anderson said. “After that game, it was like a sigh of relief for me, and I think everything just clicked for them. That win gave them the confidence they have now. Prior to that game, I think that’s what we were lacking. A confidence to know that we can and should be where we are right now.”

From there, the Eagles went on to win three of their next five matches, including a second win over Kalama on Oct. 31, fittingly, a win that secured their place in state.

And just look at the firepower that’s got them here.

▪  Two 20-goal scorers in sophomore Tyler Taff (25) and junior Alea Yun (22). And two more with more than 10 goals — Amanda Hamel (12) and Grace Pierson (11).

▪  Life Christian has four other players wiht at least 10 assists — Taff (15), Landyn Lovelady (14), Yun (10) and Pierson (10).

And for Pierson, a senior captain, the wins against Kalama did far more than just extend the Eagles’ season.

“Our offense has been really strong,” Pierson said. “Tyler and Alea have been really great for us, and our defense has played really well. But I really think our ability to come together and work together since that game has gotten us to where we are.”

And if Life Christian can beat Adna, this girls soccer team will be the first program at the school, in any sport, to play in a championship contest.

But these same Pirates handed Life Christian three of its four losses this season, two of which came by way of penalty kicks.

When the two met on Nov. 4, a 4-3 loss for the Eagles, Life Christian led 3-0 at halftime before Adna came back, drew the match in regulation, and won in penalty kicks.

“Those (were) tough days,” Chapman said. “But games like that give teams an opportunity to show what they’re made of.”

The Eagles began preparation for the Pirates on Monday with a team meeting. The coaches gave the team its motto for the week: “The power of what you say.”

“We’ve never made this far,” Chapman said. “So this is a game where it doesn’t matter what the outcome is. We’re so ready to attack, ready to play our game.

“We are so excited, and I don’t think there are any nerves because we are mentally prepared. We’ve played them before, so we’re pumped and ready no matter the outcome.”

Jerod Young: 253-597-8680

Twitter: @JerodYoung