LAKE STEVENS — At the start of the season, the Jackson and Kamiak girls soccer teams, both 4A state tournament qualifiers a year ago, were favored to win the Wesco 4A championship. Both of those squads have done well so far, but Lake Stevens and Glacier Peak haven’t let the Timberwolves and Knights build substantial conference leads.
After Tuesday’s contests, the halfway point in the conference schedule, Jackson sat in first place with 18 points, but the Grizzlies, Vikings and Kamiak were right behind with 15 points each. The race for the conference’s top two spots — and byes in the 4A District 1 tournament — has the potential to be a good one, and Lake Stevens and Glacier Peak should be right in the middle of it.
The Grizzlies and Vikings have taken different paths to contention, however.
Before the season started, Glacier Peak coach Melinda Torre, who saw her team fall one win short of the state tournament last year, was confident that the Grizzlies could take the next step this fall.
“The five seniors came into my office in the spring and wrote down some things we could do differently to have success — how to train better and (instill) more unity,” Torre said after her team lost to host Lake Stevens 2-1 on Thursday. “(As a result of that discussion), I had a good feeling coming into this year.”
Earlier this season Glacier Peak won five games in a row before losing to Kamiak 6-0 on Tuesday, then falling short in Lake Stevens on Thursday.
“We’ve been inconsistent,” Torre said. “We’ve had to adjust to being the team that’s a team to beat. But we’ve had a few players step up. Kimber Thomas has come up big. She was a defender, and I moved her to the midfield, and she’s dominated. Kiah Dayton has a great presence on the back line. She’s usually defending the (opponents’) top scorer, and she wants that.”
On the other hand, Vikings coach Andy Knutson was a bit more hesitant to label his team as a sure contender at the start of the season.
“We didn’t expect to fight for the top half (of the conference), to be honest,” he said. “We had some kids not turn out, and we had some early injuries. I thought we’d be right in the middle. But the girls have stepped up and played so well. They’ve come together as a group, and they’re working hard. That’s made the difference.”
Lake Stevens has won five of its past six games, outscoring its opponents 20-3 during that span.
“We’ve been working on creating an identity. Now people are starting to believe in what they’re trying to do,” Knutson said. “Our front line has (been playing) tough and working hard. Our back line has had a lot of injuries, but they’re doing great. We’ve given up a few goals, but people are stepping up back there.”
Amber Elliano and Sam Foley tallied the Vikings’ goals Thursday, while Chase Sprink scored for the Grizzlies.