Hailey Still is a natural right-footed soccer player, but the Thomas Jefferson High School junior’s highlight videos abound with skillful left-footed goals. And where she truly excels, she and coach Josh Hauck agree, is in the air.
Hauck recalls Still missing a header in a drill that nonetheless shocked he and his assistant coaches.
“We practice at Steel Lake Park. Hailey took a header that sailed over the goal and slammed off the wall of a skateboard park 20 yards away,” he said.
Still, who scored 29 goals and recorded seven assists a year ago to earn 4A NPSL Olympic Division MVP honors as a sophomore, doesn’t remember the incident.
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“But I’m pretty well-known for headers,” she said. “Coaches have always put me in position to get the ball on set pieces.”
“She will definitely go up for the ball,” Hauck said.
Still, who also plays basketball for the Raiders, took up soccer at age 5, and eventually followed her sister Maddie as a captain in the Thomas Jefferson program. She says the “competitive atmosphere” on the soccer field led her to make the sport her priority.
After attending a development camp at the University of Washington and playing nationally with Pacific Northwest Soccer Club, she received a scholarship offer from the Huskies while still a freshman and quickly accepted.
“UW has always been my dream school, so I didn’t have to think about it,” she said.
At 5-foot-5, Still’s speed is the attraction, along with her will.
“My work ethic is what coaches like the most,” she said. “I try to leave it all on the field, fight for every ball the whole 90 minutes.”
Said Hauck: “She’ll put her body on the line, whether its for a tackle or to save a goal.”
When Hauck, now in his third season as girls coach at Thomas Jefferson, first saw Still play, he noticed her competitive nature and athleticism as well as some unusual skills.
“She’s always been willing to go (one-on-one) against another player, something you don’t always see at the high school level,” he said. “We didn’t know she’d end up leading the league in scoring, but we knew she was going to be good.”
Now, with the Raiders coming off a second-place finish in league play a year ago, heading into Tuesday night’s 4A NPSL opener at Auburn, Hauck has noticed Still’s approach evolving.
“Her communication skills have improved. She’s better at talking to her teammates, moving them around on the field,” he said. “She’s also started to understand she doesn’t have to do it all. Top players can sometimes take on too much responsibility.”
Still carries that sense of responsibility into her academic work as well, carrying a 4.0 GPA.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s not as hard as you would think,” she said. “I’ve never had a life without traveling for soccer and still having to get my schoolwork done. Once you’re used to doing it, it gets easier. Communicating with teachers about what’s going on is the biggest thing.”
With her college choice made early, Still has had plenty of time to think about what she’ll need to do to be ready for the Pac-12 level. Playing for Pacific Northwest has been a factor.
“Traveling has opened up my perspective of the competition around our world,” she said. “When you stay close to home, you play against the same people all the time. It’s a real eye-opener when you travel. You see how you can do and be better.”
She also makes the most of her opportunities to observe current college teams.
“I’ve watched a few games. The pace is much faster,” she said. “I’m going to do as much training as I can with boys and do a lot of running on my own.”
Hauck sees only success ahead for Still.
“I can only say good things about Hailey,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to see her light this season up.”