As long-time coach of the Everett girls soccer team, Kosta Pitharoulis has been very successful at setting a high standard for the Seagulls.
Since the team broke through in 2006 to advance to the state tournament for the first time as a 3A school — and the Seagulls followed that up by winning the 2008 state crown — the preseason goal has always been clear.
“Without even telling them, (the returning players) know that the goal is to be a state champion,” Pitharoulis said. “But its definitely something I want to make sure that some of the new faces are very aware of as well.”
By most team’s standards, Everett’s 2011 season was a hearty success. The Seagulls completed the regular season undefeated (15-0-1) and atop the Wesco 3A league standings. However, a loss in the district championship game (to league rival Meadowdale) as well as a loss to Liberty in the state quarterfinals meant the season ended sooner than most expected.
Everett was atop the media poll for most of the season, but the 2-0 loss to Liberty hurt.
“We were very disappointed to lose, but Liberty was a good team and they came out and played harder than we did,” senior captain Rosie Sittauer said. “But I think it made us all realize how much harder we need to want this, and how much harder we need to work for it. I think it will make us a better team.”
Sittauer is the centerpiece — both metaphorically and physically — for Everett as the lone captain and center defender. Having verbally committed to play soccer at Seattle University, Sittauer is one of several Seagull players that will have an opportunity to play at the next level. Her older sister Annie was on the 2008 state championship team and is currently a junior playing at the University of Washington.
It means a lot that Sittauer was named captain on a team with 10 senior returnees on the roster, but Pitharoulis expects the others to contribute as well.
“Rosie has stepped up and she’s formally a captain and has been doing a great job,” the Everett coach said.
“As important as it is to have that person that goes out there for the coin toss, everyone is going to have to pull their weight and there could be games where Rosie as a captain needs help and they will be expected to step up and fill those roles.”
As important as Sittauer is to the team’s stout defense, forward Hayley Ayers, who has committed verbally to play at Seattle Pacific University, is the heart of the offense.
“We know we want to finish at the top,” Ayers said. “It’s definitely a motivator. Kosta said it’s all about the want this year. That’s true. We just have to want to win all the time.”
A few of the players admitted that they didn’t want it as bad as Meadowdale in the 2011 district championship game. Having already secured a bid to the state tourney and beaten Meadowdale 2-0 and 1-0 in the regular season, Everett succumbed to the Mavs 2-0, hurting their seeding for the 3A tournament.
Everett learned from that experience.
“None of us seniors want to end the way we did last year,” midfielder Cherise Shaver said. “With such high expectations, I don’t think that we would want that feeling again.”
Also bolstering Shaver and Ayers up front will be a fresh face in freshman Erika Hall, who Ayers thinks will be a big help, especially replacing some key seniors from last year.
In goal a year ago, the Seagulls experienced some injuries and had to rotate field players into the net. This year the position should be more solidified, but Pitharoulis hasn’t decided between senior Katie Johnson and junior Katie Webber as the starter.
“We’ve narrowed it down to a Katie,” the Everett coach joked.
The Wesco 3A realignment into two division, leaves Everett as the heavy favorite in the North and dodging games against perhaps the league’s next best three teams in Meadowdale, Shorecrest and Glacier Peak. The Seagulls play those south teams once each instead of twice when all of Wesco 3A played a round-robin schedule.
“It will be disappointing to only play them once, but we will have to show them how good our team is in that one game,” Ayers said.
Everett makes up for the loss of those games on the schedule with its nonleague opponents that include perennial 3A power Holy Names and defending 4A champion Skyline, as well as a trip on the road at Wenatchee.
Perhaps it’s a bold schedule, but not if the team expects to be the best.
“We are definitely in it to win it this year and that’s about it,” Sittauer said.
Jon Saperstein covers preps sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter @jonsap or email him at email@example.com.