Murphy’s Crisler: Herald’s Soccer Player of the Year

Archbishop Murphy’s Cali Crisler earned a chance to be considered the All-Area girls soccer player of the year with a stellar regular season, scoring 26 goals, assisting on 16 and leading the Wildcats to an unbeaten record.

However she may have put the exclamation point on her candidacy from the sideline during the Wildcats’ 1-0 loss to Bellingham in a 2A state quarterfinal game.

Though the rest of the team worked hard and represented a great collection of talent, it wasn’t quite the same without Crisler.

“I think one of the things we missed in the state games was her ability to make something happen,” Murphy coach Mike Bartley said. “She’s very good at that. She can shoot with power. She can score from 30 (yards) as well as in close. So, it really makes her a lethal threat.”

For a look at The Herald’s 2013 Girls Soccer All-Area teams, click here.

In the Wildcats’ final game of the district tournament — a state seeding game against Bellingham — Crisler went up for a header during the first half and was undercut by a Red Raider defender.

“Her legs went out from under her and she started to come down on her side so she reached her hand down to brace the impact and it took all the weight,” Bartley said.

Crisler left that game at halftime to get her wrist checked by a doctor. The game’s result was the second time in a week that Murphy dispatched Bellingham 1-0. In the first game, which opened the district tournament, the left-footed midfielder used an impressive right-footed cross in the 67th minute to set up teammate Kristi Bartz for the game’s only goal. It would turn out to be the final one of her team-high 16 assists.

After seeking a second opinion from a hand specialist, prior to the Wildcats’ first game in the state tournament, the verdict was not good: broken radius, surgery, season over.

“It was really hard watching from the sideline and not being able to contribute,” Crisler said. “I love playing with (the Wildcats) and they worked really hard. It was tough that it had to end that way.”

After leading the team in scoring with 26 goals on the way to a undefeated Cascade Conference schedule and a perfect record until the second round of the district tournament, Crisler’s dream was dashed.

“I was really upset because it’s my senior year and I wanted to finish it off playing and I wanted to win the state title,” said Crisler, who was a four-year varsity starter and a key part of the Wildcats third-place state finish in 2011. “I thought our team still could win one because the players on our team are really talented, but it was just not our game.”

Winning All-Area Player of the Year turns the focus from what might have been to what Crisler did accomplish in her senior season.

“I was really surprised,” she said. “I’m really honored because our school is really small compared to all the other schools.”

Crisler began down this path at a very young age. Both parents played in high school and dad advanced to the community college level. Older brother Jalen led the Murphy boys team in scoring a year ago and is redshirting on the Gonzaga men’s soccer team this season. Cali started playing indoor soccer when Jalen first played organized soccer and insisted on playing with the boys.

“Playing against him, I had to be strong to be able to keep up with them, so when I played with girls it made me stronger too,” she said.

Bartley marveled at her ability to lead the team in both scoring and assists without playing as a forward (only King’s Beth Stella eclipsed her in the league).

“She plays attacking center-mid, so she spends a lot of her time back on defense and picking up loose balls, trying to distribute and move forward,” Bartley said.

But soccer is something she loves and works on year-round, including the thing many players like least: fitness.

“She’s one of the most fit players we have,” Bartley said. “She plays on the best teams that she can get on year-round. I just think she is very deserving of what she’s getting.”

What she’s getting will include a partial scholarship to play for the University of Arizona, that has the potential of turning into a full-scholarship after the academic side is determined later this year.

Crisler says she was initially “really open” with her search but narrowed to Arizona, University of Pennsylvania, Washington State and Seattle University. After then narrowing down to Penn and Arizona, she decided to stay closer to family. She hopes to study pre-med, nursing or perhaps business.

Bartley, who has coached several Division-I soccer players, including Jalen, Murphy’s Shelby Koch and Cara Wegner (when he was girls coach at Jackson) thinks Crisler has the potential to have one of the best college careers among his former players.

“She’ll do great at the college level because she’s competitive all the time,” Bartley said.

“She made training better for everybody. She made fitness better. Everything that we were involved with she just has a way of making it better for everybody.”

Though her skill has been there for her whole high school career, she put it all together her senior season and became a complete player.

“She was voted captain and she was a leader,” Bartley said. “That’s the one thing I think she improved on the most this season: her leadership ability. Last year she seemed OK with being a supporting role but this year she took on ‘I have to make things happen’ and she ended up driving us forward really well.”

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