The next budding Knights star looked to be Emele Chaddock, who led the team in scoring as a freshman last season. But Chaddock tore her anterior cruciate ligament in February, knocking her out for at least the 2013 regular season.
"At the beginning of the season it was a worry," Stewart said of losing Chaddock. "I was like, 'I don't know how we are going to do.' And I honestly didn't."
Stewart wondered before the season who would step up?
The answer: No one and everyone at the same time.
The Knights have once again climbed to the top of the Wesco 4A South standings this season with a leadership-by-committee team that Stewart calls her best 'TEAM' since she's coached at the Mukilteo high school.
"They've just really stepped up and I'm super proud of them," Stewart said. "They play for each other instead of themselves."
After dropping a 3-1 decision to Snohomish last week, the Knights fell a point behind Jackson and Edmonds-Woodway in the 4A South standings. But all three teams have nine wins entering today's games and the Knights are surprise contenders for the league title.
Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise.
What seemed like the Knights' weakness has actually become their strength. During their reign, the Knights had stars who drew all the attention of opposing defenses. But in the playoffs the defenses get better and even with their stars, the Knights have never reached beyond the first round of the state playoffs where defenses get really good at taking away one offensive player.
"Other teams zero in on that obviously, so those (stars) are typically double marked," Stewart said. "It just makes it tricky because that's been your go-to forever. Then who is going to step in and fill that role?
"When you have a team kind of like my team this year -- kind of even across the board -- somebody has to step in (every game). And it's been a different person every time."
Christine Heisen was in the Kamiak Show Band and Color Guard two years ago, but this year she has been a key scorer and one of the two seniors making an impact. Taking running start classes conflicted with band, so Heisen played soccer as a next-best option as a junior. Now she wouldn't go back if she could.
"We've had a lot of success," Heisen said. "It's been great. I like the team chemistry. Everyone gets a long well and it's just fun."
Baylie Lux-Lowry is a co-captain. She stepped up and scored two penalty-kick goals in the Kamiak's big 3-1 win over Arlington two weeks ago. Lux-Lowry seems to lead by showing everyone else how to raise her level of play when the team needs it.
"There's a few certain girls that will be leaders and try to motivate the team, but overall everyone tries to lead the team by their play," the junior midfielder said.
Tylor Adcock is just a sophomore, but has become the biggest leader on the defense. She pairs with Anne Ferguson to anchor the defensive back line.
"The most surprising thing are my two center-backs this year," Stewart said of the duo.
The Kamiak coach marvels at Ferguson's seemingly innate ability to win headers despite a diminutive 5-foot-4 frame.
"She's pretty small, but her timing is perfect and that's a tough thing for a girl," Stewart said. "She and Tylor have communicated well so that's been a huge plus."
Perhaps most importantly, sophomore Shannon Peth has stepped into the net and the defense hasn't missed a beat after the graduation of All-Area goalkeeper Makaela, who is now starting in goal as a freshman at the University of Texas-San Antonio. But Peth who played on the same club as Makaela has only surrendered seven goals on the season.
Peth and Adcock have played together since they were 6-years-old and they say they can practically read each other's mind on the field.
"We work really, really well together," Peth said. "We don't have to communicate that much. We think the same so we know where to tell other people to go."
They played together on club teams, but this one feels more special.
"Going to school makes the chemistry a lot stronger because you see (your teammates) everywhere," Peth said.
The other senior is co-captain Brelyn Kussman, who is a calming presence at the outside right-mid position.
Stewart's biggest problem has been getting someone to lead the girls onto the field before the game.
"The whole team is so quiet," she said. "We tried to figure out who was going to do our pregame cheer and we couldn't.
"We don't really have that big boisterous personality this year and that's really the first time, so it's been different. It's fun."
A year ago Kamiak lost to eventual state runner up in the winner-to-state-loser out crossover game with Kingco's Issaquah.
"We were a crossbar and a sidebar away from state," Stewart said. "It's very small margin and they are believers (this year)."
The coach, whose youngest child is graduating from Kamiak this year, doesn't see herself stepping away from the sideline anytime soon despite the fact that she and her husband own three restaurants that keep them busy year round.
"My best part of my day is going out and coaching these girls," she said.
Record: 9-2-2 overall; 9-2-0 in Wesco 4A South (third place)
Key upcoming dates: vs. Jackson, tonight; at Edmonds-Woodway, Thursday.
Season overview: With games against league co-leaders Jackson and Edmonds-Woodway this week, Kamiak has the ability to gain the upper hand in the race for a Wesco 4A South title.
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