High School Sports

A late arrival to soccer, Franklin Pierce’s Caitrin McKenna making up for lost time

Two things are highly probable when Caitrin McKenna is on the soccer field: Her name is going to be announced for scoring a goal for Franklin Pierce High School — and it’s likely going to be pronounced incorrectly.

McKenna is more focused on showing what she can do as the Cardinals’ leading goal scorer, but she can’t help but take note of what is blared over the loudspeaker.

“I kind of hear everything,” she said of the name that honors her family’s Irish heritage. “Cat-rin, Cat-uh-rin, Caitlin ...

“I like having a unique name, but it would be nice if people knew how to pronounce it.”

McKenna — who says Caitrin is pronounced “like Caitlin, but with an ‘r’ ” — doesn’t just stand out because of her name, though. The all-2A South Puget Sound League forward, who is averaging a goal per game, has been playing soccer for just five years.

Her skills and ambition are key factors in why the Cardinals sit atop the league standings with Fife. Both have identical 8-3 records.

“Generally, leading scorers are four goals behind where she is at right now (at this point of the season),” Franklin Pierce coach Lisa Green said. “She’s incredible.”

McKenna is pretty nonchalant about it, though.

“I love being on the field and using my feet,” she said.

McKenna never played a sport until seventh grade. That changed in a middle school physical education class where she tried a bunch of sports. And soccer is the one that stuck with her.

She started playing club soccer in eighth grade. Last year, she joined the Rainier Valley Slammers Club in Auburn.

Senior forward Molly Mortensen said it has been fun seeing McKenna’s progress since they started playing together in middle school.

“I can remember staying after practice and teaching her how to shoot a ball,” Mortensen said. “And now she’s so good.”

As a ninth-grader in 2011, McKenna tallied four goals. And the season totals kept rising — six in 2012, and 14 in 17 matches last season. She has 35 for her career.

Green said that McKenna’s most stealthy skill is her ability to make headers.

“Somehow, her head is a magnet for the ball,” the coach said. “Every time it’s up in the air, she’s on it.”

People are often surprised when they find out McKenna has not been playing since childhood. It’s something she thinks about as she assesses her own skills.

“I wish I would have started playing earlier,” McKenna said, “so I would have more experience and be better than I am now.”

At Franklin Pierce, McKenna is the captain of a team that she says has the strongest chemistry of her four years.

“Our team is super close, which is not something that has really happened in years past,” she said. “It helps us play better.”

McKenna, who plans to play soccer at Pierce College next season, wants to major in elementary education and possibly become a coach.

But first comes helping Franklin Pierce chase its first state title.

The closest the program has come is a Class 3A runner-up finish to Mount Rainier in 1985. And the past three seasons, the Cardinals have failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs.

“It would be amazing,” McKenna said. “I’ve never really thought of it because it’s never been a reachable goal ... but this year, I think we can definitely go to state, and go far.”