By Aaron Coe
EVERETT – Kat Taylor is one freshman to be feared.
The Archbishop Murphy soccer forward has been chewing up Class A goalkeepers all season long. The athleticism and work ethic are there, yes, but the ability to score comes from within.
“She’s a special breed,” Archbishop Murphy coach Pat Jack said. “I don’t think strikers are made. They are born.”
Taylor has made it obvious that she was born to score goals. She has scored 22 of them in 16 Archbishop Murphy games this season. If she can score enough goals Friday and Saturday the Wildcats will be state champions.
Taylor, who lives in Marysville, and her teammates will play Overlake at 4 p.m. Friday at Auburn Stadium in a Class A/B state playoff semifinal. The winner of that game plays in Saturday’s title game against the Cedar Park Christian-Brewster winner.
The recipe for a championship is no more complex for the Wildcats than that of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Start with some strong defense. Spread a few passes from the midfield. Top it off with a couple of Taylor goals, and you’ve got yourself the first Archbishop Murphy state title in school history.
Sounds tasty to Taylor.
“That would be exciting,” she said.
Having their freshman phenom score goals has been important to the Wildcats this season. The team is 11-1 when she scores at least one goal, and 1-2-1 when she doesn’t.
That type of dependence on a freshman often can lead to state playoff disasters. Suddenly there’s a real crowd watching the game, not the usually small regular-season gathering. The pressure can eat 14-year-olds like a bowl of Wheaties.
So far, Taylor has averted nerves. She proved that by booting an overtime goal in a 2-1 victory over University Prep in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
Taylor is quick to point out that there would have been no goal if not for the perfect pass from teammate Olen Greig. But, handling that pass and not messing it up takes a special skill.
It takes speed, agility and eye-foot coordination. It means looking up at the goalie and sensing that she is cheating a little bit to the left. Then comes the really hard part: Putting the ball into the corner of the net. Not to the right of the goal. Not over the top of the goal. In it.
There isn’t much separating a perfect shot from one that sends the goalie into the woods to find a ball that strayed from its target. Sometimes, it’s that little punch by nerves that hits a shooter in the gut just before foot hits ball.
Taylor, however, has a calmness that is beyond her years. Her stable personality also keeps her head from inflating with every goal.
“She’s had a lot of success this year, but she has not showed it at all,” Wildcats midfielder Lindsey Shandera said. “She gets a lot of recognition, but she’s very humble. She’s a really sweet person and enjoyable to have on the team.”
If there was one thing the Wildcats needed this year, it was someone like Kat Taylor. That someone last year was Danielle Bair, who led Archbishop Murphy to the quarterfinals as a junior. Bair, who scored 10 more goals than anyone else on the team last year, however, has been unable to play her senior season because of an assortment of leg injuries.
“Kat came in and stepped right into the position,” Jack said. “She’s done a great job.”
Taylor added the final ingredient to Archbishop Murphy’s success this season. The diamond defense, formed by Brenna Rice, Theresa Mathias, Danielle Shandera and Rachel Ogle along with goalie Alicia Bourke has posted seven shutouts. The midfield is able to control the tempo of games and send pretty passes to the forwards.
Often, those passes turn into Taylor goals.
Scoring those goals has been fun for Taylor, who plays the midfield on an Emerald City select team and began her freshman season as a midfielder.
The midfield position is fun, yes, but there is nothing like scoring a goal. Taylor says she had no idea she would become one of the top finishers in Class A soccer when she nervously walked onto the field for her first high school practice less than three months ago.
“It’s been a little surprising,” said Taylor, who has a 3.87 grade point average. “I was just happy to be a starter. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Almost as fun as winning a state championship.