It's been that type of offseason for the Spartans.
Demonstrating a kicking technique, Veach suffered a ruptured Achilles' tendon during a recent practice and he'll be on crutches for the rest of the season. The difference between Veach and a pair of his players who suffered injuries over the offseason is he can still perform his duties from the sidelines. Lauren Allison and Brooklyn Roberts can only cheer.
"It's devastating," Veach said. "Lauren is a once-in-a-lifetime player; Brooklyn is the heartbeat of our defense. Losing both of them is a huge blow for us. But we kind of left it in the summer." After finishing last season with a strong playoff run, the Spartans were primed for a run at their first state berth since 2005. With seven seniors set to return, including All-Wesco first-team selections forward Allison and defender Roberts, and a complement of younger players around them, Stanwood's hopes were high.
But over the winter Roberts tore her anterior cruciate ligament. Then in June Allison, who led the Spartans with 16 goals and 11 assists last season, tore her ACL. Both players were ruled out for their senior seasons, leaving Veach scrambling for replacements not only on the field but in the locker room.
"Lauren is a player that inspires by the way she works and Brooklyn is the teammate of teammates; she's the vocal catalyst of our backline," Veach said. "We not only lose two phenomenal players but two great leaders."
So instead of the usual two captains -- which would have likely been Allison and Roberts -- the Spartans decided to name three captains this season: Maddison Post, Ashley Hughes and Adesn Vanderpool. All three are experienced players and have had success on the field: Post teamed with Roberts to lead the defense while Hughes has been the program's second-leading scorer behind Allison for the past three years.
"Maddison, Ashley and Adesn are no strangers to the program," Veach said. "They're great leaders. They just need to take that next step this year."
The three seniors have made it a point to bring a team-first attitude to the Spartans this season. They're being assisted by Allison and Roberts, who are both helping coach the team this season.
"We're all working together to make it a better team," Hughes said. "No matter who takes who's spot we're all a sisterhood."
The three girls hold down three different parts of the field. Post is the leader of the defense, taking over that mantle from Roberts; Hughes is the main striker threat up front in place of Allison; and Vanderpool will handle the middle of the field as center-mid. It fits that all three girls bring different attributes to the field: Post is the quiet leader, Vanderpool the high-energy outspoken player and Hughes the aggressive playmaker.
"We're all really different," Vanderpool said. "We can reach out to all of the girls ... I'm more laid back and let them take over a little more. But I think Maddison and Ashley are really good players and take things very seriously and are good at getting the girls pumped up."
The three captains have a lot more inexperienced teammates around them than they thought they'd have this season. But the trio are confident in the young charges, including newcomer Natalie Wyles, who ran cross country last season, Brooke Vansant, Lisette Vargas and Maddison's younger sister Bailey Post.
"Girls have stepped up and filled open positions," Maddison Post said.
"We have a talent on the team right now, we just need to utilize it," Vanderpool added.
Stanwood's ultimate goal is to get to state, but first they want to wrap up a Wesco 3A North title. To do so the Spartans will have to topple Everett, which has won three league titles in four years, including the past two Wesco 3A titles. Stanwood got a taste of how to beat the Seagulls last season when the Spartans beat Everett 1-0 in the third-to-last game of the season, propelling them into the playoffs.
Stanwood junior varsity and assistant coach Carrie James said she's never seen a team this close before and has seen them grow into a tight-knit family.
"They're a very unified group and they're friends," James said. "(Coach Veach) does a good job of making them appreciate each other as individuals. Everybody brings something to the team. No matter whether you're sitting on the sidelines or out on the field you are part of this team and we care about each other and treat each other like family."
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