When the Class 1A members of the Cascade Conference announced in December of 2017 that they would be leaving in the fall in order to form their own league, it left two schools — Cedarcrest and Archbishop Murphy — without a home.
The attention quickly shifted to what would happen to the latter, a powerhouse at the Class 2A level in multiple sports.
When both eventually joined Wesco 3A for all sports except football, most of the buzz centered around the addition of Murphy, an Everett-based private school. Cedarcrest, a mid-sized 2A school located just south of the Snohomish County line in Duvall, was sort of an afterthought.
But after an impressive start to its inaugural Wesco 3A season, the Cedarcrest girls soccer team is far from an afterthought.
“I felt that our girls soccer program was gonna be competitive,” Cedarcrest athletic director Jason Frederick said. “And I know coach (Alex Hickox) felt that way, too. I think the girls going in were looking forward to more competition compared to playing smaller schools in the Cascade Conference.”
The girls have proven they’re up to the challenge.
Going into Tuesday night’s game against Everett, the Red Wolves were 6-1 in league play and had outscored their opponents 21-5. In their first seven conference games, they posted five shutouts and allowed more than one goal only once. They also routed Monroe — a Class 4A school — 6-0 in a non-conference game Sept. 8.
The Red Wolves’ only defeat in conference play was a 4-3 overtime loss last week to Snohomish, one of the preseason favorites to win the league title. Cedarcrest fell behind 3-1 midway through the second half after the defending conference champions Panthers scored three times in 13 minutes. Instead of succumbing to the pressure and disappointment of falling behind on the quick flurry of goals, Cedarcrest answered with a quick score of its own to cut into the lead to one goal and eventually tied the match in the 74th minute.
“The team showed a lot of effort and moxie,” Hickox said of the comeback.
The Red Wolves also left an impression on the opposing coach.
“I would say they’re very dynamic up top,” Snohomish girls soccer coach April VanAssche said after the game. “The two girls up top gave us a lot of problems. We switched to man-marking because we were worried about them enough, and we haven’t gotten into that this season. So that says how dangerous I felt like they were up there.
“All around the field, I think their girls played with a lot of pride, and that shows when you get scored on three times and they never gave up. They never quit fighting. … They seemed resilient, they seemed mentally tough.”
The Red Wolves’ success on the pitch shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The team returned a bevy of talent from the 2017 squad that made it to the second round of the 2A state tournament — including all-league selections Sarah Hommas, Piper Parish, Brooke Benson and Sidra Griffin. The Red Wolves won a share of the 2017 Cascade Conference title — splitting the honor with Archbishop Murphy and finishing in front of eventual 1A state champion King’s — and posted a 49-21-8 (39-8-5 conference) record in the four years prior to joining Wesco 3A.
Needless to say, the league’s coaches knew they weren’t going to be able to take Cedarcrest lightly.
“I think with what we had heard coming in from a soccer standpoint, we had heard Cedarcrest was going to be tough,” VanAssche said.
Even with a strong tradition, it’s hard to ignore the disadvantage the Red Wolves face in their new league. Their enrollment numbers are lower than any of the the other public schools in Wesco 3A
At the beginning of the latest classification cycle in 2016, Cedarcrest’s freshman through junior enrollment was 716 students. The next closest public school in the conference is Mountlake Terrace, the second largest 2A school in the state, at 961.95. Snohomish (1,283), Arlington (1,249.5), Edmonds-Woodway (1,216.64,), Shorewood (1,208.05), Marysville Getchell (1,198.62), Meadowdale (1,197.05) and Oak Harbor (1,132.38) all have at least 400 more students to draw from for their athletic teams.
“We knew going into the Wesco that it was going to be challenging obviously in all of our sports,” Frederick said. “We’re kind of the small fish in the pond in terms of size, being only one of three 2A schools (in the conference).”
But that certainly isn’t something the girls soccer team is going to use as an excuse to settle for anything less than being a competitive force.
“I really don’t know what to expect coming into the conference, having been from a smaller conference and coming into here,” Hickox said. “I could’ve anticipated it being a lot more physical, and the larger schools have a better population to pull (from) and create teams here. So we know we’re the underdogs kind of walking into each (game) being a smaller school. But this is a well-equipped team. I’ve got confidence in our ability. I think we’ll end up being pretty successful at the end of the year.”
If the Red Wolves can keep up their hot start, they’ll be right where they’re used to being at the end of the season.
“We didn’t have a lot of expectations (coming in),” Hickox said. “It was the unknown, but we knew that we were going to be competitive. I mean, we finished well last year and we had a lot of returning players come back. So we kind of felt that we are going to be competitive, which we are.”