By JOHN McDONALD
The Jackson Timberwolves are entering unfamiliar territory and a monster lurks along their path.
Jackson is making its first-ever foray into the state soccer playoffs and whom should they draw for their debut — none other than three-time Pierce County League champion White River.
Jackson (9-9-2) will play the Hornets (13-0-1) at 5:15 p.m. today in a first-round, loser-out Class 3A game at Lakewood Stadium in Tacoma.
In other 3A games tonight, Skyline (9-2-5) plays Meadowdale (12-4-3) at 7 p.m. at Edmonds Stadium and Seattle Prep (13-4-2) plays Lake Stevens (13-3-3) at 5:30 p.m. at Snohomish H.S.
In 4A action, Oak Harbor (13-2-1) plays at Curtis (17-0-1) at 7 p.m., and Tahoma (16-1-1) plays at Snohomish (10-5-1) at 7:30 p.m.
An offensive juggernaut, White River averages 5.5 goals and 25 shots on goal per game. Forward Jamie Giger has 26 goals and 11 assists this season, and 95 career goals. Forward Arica Slawson has 25 goals and 22 assists this season.
Led by a cadre of nine seniors who have played together for the last six years, White River is a veteran team making its third straight state tournament appearance.
Oak Harbor’s challenge is no less daunting than Jackson’s. Unbeaten Curtis has shut out 11 opponents this season.
While the Vikings’ strength is its defense, senior forward Melanie Rice has scored a school record 32 goals this season.
A state semifinalist and third-place finisher last season, the Snohomish Panthers are back in the playoffs, but with a mostly new cast of characters.
Snohomish hasn’t drawn any cakewalk for its opener, either. Tahoma’s only loss was a 2-1 setback at the hands of Curtis. The Bears scored three or more goals in a game 12 times this season, while posting 14 shutouts.
Lake Stevens comes into the playoffs riding the crest of its district championship victory over Western Conference 3A champion Meadowdale. Along the way, the Vikings handed Northwest 3A champion Mount Vernon its first loss to a 3A team.