By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
One of the key components to having a successful soccer team is consistently strong goalkeeping.
Thanks to senior-to-be Kiera Towell, coach Bill LeCompte’s Edmonds-Woodway girls soccer team hasn’t had to worry about that position for quite some time.
Towell captured the starting goalkeeping position just weeks into her freshman season and has held the job since.
“For me as a head coach, it’s kind of nice to know that I don’t ever have to worry about one of the toughest spots on the field to play,” LeCompte said.
In her first year of high school competition, Towell impressed LeCompte in tryouts, but he was reluctant to “throw her to the wolves” immediately, for fear a bad outing might ruin her confidence.
LeCompte eased her into the lineup, playing her at goalie for a half here and there. Before long, it was apparent confidence wasn’t going to be a problem.
“It was pretty apparent that she was our number-one keeper at that point,” LeCompte said. “We were four or five games into the season when we finally said, ‘Let’s give her a start and see how she does.’”
Towell said she didn’t know quite what to expect in her first high school start, but her select soccer background was reassuring.
“It was definitely something I was hoping for,” Towell said of earning the starting job. “I knew I was good, but I didn’t know how other people would be compared to me.”
With Towell’s position as the starting goalkeeper solidified, the victories started piling up. After going winless in their first five games, the Warriors won nine of their next 11 regular-season games to clinch the No. 2 seed from the 4A Wesco South in the District 1 tournament, finishing behind Jackson.
Edmonds-Woodway picked up where it left off in the postseason by knocking off Arlington in the first round, setting up a meeting with Snohomish, the No. 1 seed from the Wesco North, in the semifinals.
Towell was brilliant.
“She hands down kept us in the game and gave us a shot to win it, which we ended up doing, just because she came up with saves at key moments in the game,” LeCompte said. “They were saves that in 15 years of being the head coach at Edmonds-Woodway I’ve never seen any high school player make and she was making them.”
The Warriors’ 1-0 win over Snohomish clinched a berth in the state tournament and led to a meeting with Jackson in the district championship, which E-W won.
Edmonds-Woodway was eliminated in the opening round of the state tournament with a 5-1 loss to Gig Harbor, but it was clear the Warriors had their goalkeeper for the next three years.
For all of her success, it was defeat that taught Towell a valuable lesson going forward in her prep career.
“The biggest challenge is, you will get scored on,” Towell said. “No matter how good of a goalie you are, you’re going to get scored on. You kind of have to deal with that and get back up and make the next save. It’s part of the game.”
Towell couldn’t have asked for a much better start to her sophomore season. The Warriors won their first seven games and 11 of their first 12, but they stumbled late in the season and had to settle for another second-place finish in the conference.
Kamiak ended the Warriors’ season in the district tournament.
Towell and her teammates earned a share of the league championship a year ago and went on to win the district championship for the second time in three years before being eliminated by Olympia in the first round of the state tournament.
In three seasons, Towell is yet to get out of the first round of the state tournament — something she hopes changes in her final year at Edmonds-Woodway.
“Senior year, got to make it count,” she said. “Advancing would be awesome. We’ve always been pretty strong and I kind of expect that to continue.”
Towell’s offseason — if you could call it that — has been spent competing with her select team, the Pacific Northwest Soccer Club. Just like at Edmonds-Woodway, success has followed Towell with her club team. PNSC won the Washington State Cup in May for a second consecutive season and advanced to regionals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in June.
Despite suffering a torn meniscus during pool play of the State Cup, Towell returned to help her team finish second at regionals, coming up a win shy of advancing to the national championships. She has one more tournament with her select teammates later this month before the focus shifts to the 2014 school season.
Towell, who has a 3.96 cumulative grade point average, has verbally committed to play soccer at the University of Pennsylvania in the Ivy League next year.
LeCompte said the improved focus he saw in Towell as a junior helped her earn her the opportunity to play in college, and he expects her to continue to improve her focus once she gets to Penn.
“Last year especially, you could see there was a little more focus and intensity behind what she was doing,” LeCompte said. “Any player on the field, if they want to play at the next level, they have to find that from within. I can tell them that, their other coaches can tell them that, but they have to decide to go and grab a hold of that. Be purposeful about what you do.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.