Callie Wright was usually one of the shortest players on the pitch.
But when it came to talent and goal-scoring ability, the King’s High School standout often towered above the opposition.
Wright found the back of the net with staggering frequency this season, totaling a school-record 37 goals and six assists while leading the Knights to the Class 1A state quarterfinals. The standout senior forward scored goals in 16 of her team’s 21 matches, including 11 multi-goal performances.
For her exceptional season, Wright is The Herald’s 2018 Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“I have a really competitive spirit, so regardless of my size, it’s always been about winning the game,” she said. “So however I had to do that, I just had to do it. … I may not be very big, but I’m going to play big no matter who I’m going against.”
Wright and the small-school Knights showcased that fearless mentality in beating three KingCo 4A squads — Woodinville, Redmond and Inglemoor — during a five-day span midway through the season. Wright netted a combined five goals in those three matches against schools from the state’s top classification, including a two-goal performance in a 3-0 win over eventual 4A state qualifier Redmond.
“She always stepped up,” King’s coach Nicole Gabelein said. “She was there when her team needed her. She was ready for those games (and) went head into it and led her team. … She wouldn’t let her team even think of losing those games. She was the inspiration.”
Wright, the North Sound Conference’s offensive player of the year, led the Knights (18-3) to league and bi-district titles en route to the state quarterfinals. But of all the accomplishments, Wright said those three KingCo 4A victories were the most memorable.
“One of the (opposing) coaches asked after the game, ‘Where is King’s?’” Wright said. “So to beat a team (that) didn’t even know where we were from was kind of a big deal. … We had something to prove, and we proved it.”
Wright had enormous shoes to fill this season after the graduation of Katie Stella, the state’s reigning 1A most valuable player. Last year, Stella netted 35 goals and Wright added approximately 20 as the dynamic duo led the Knights to their first-ever state crown. But with Stella gone, it was Wright’s task to carry this year’s team.
Wright certainly rose to the occasion, breaking Stella’s single-season scoring record and powering a King’s attack that netted 84 goals.
“She set a really high bar, and I really wanted to beat it,” Wright said of Stella’s school record. “That really motivated me to keep scoring and just keep working throughout the whole season. … Those were some big shoes to fill. She was a good player and she was a good leader, and so I (learned) a lot from her.”
Gabelein said Wright excelled at using her speed and dribbling ability to burst by defenders and create open shots.
“I think there’s a big difference between being fast and quick,” Gabelein said. “She had both. Her speed was there, but her quickness is what killed (defenders). … Her quickness with the ball at her feet was deadly.
“For a defense, she’s a nightmare,” Gabelein added. “She’s just a little whirlwind coming through.”
Gabelein said there were countless times when defenders expected Wright to cut one way, only to watch as she raced past them in the other direction.
“She had a couple of moves that she would use — not many — but they were extremely effective at getting around the defenders,” Gabelein said. “She was doing moves (where defenders) would go one way, and the ball would go in the other direction.
“She’d do a fake, and it was game over at that point if she got into the box. … She was quick enough that all she needed was to get that toe in front of you, and she could get her shot in.”
Gabelein also praised Wright’s passing skills and versatility, which allowed the Knights to occasionally move her into the midfield.
“She has such great vision for making passes, whether she’s in the midfield or if she’s up front,” Gabelein said. “If she was getting marked out, she would get the ball and deliver it to another player that was open.
“She just complemented the dynamics of our team really well with the other players. She really played to their strengths and she’s a team player. … It wasn’t just Callie going to the goal. She was laying off balls, and other players were getting quite a few goals in as well.”
After a brilliant soccer career at King’s, Wright said she’s currently undecided about her post-graduation plans.
“I’ve applied to a few colleges,” she said. “I’m still not sure if I want to play soccer or not, but I’ve applied and talked to coaches, so I’m kind of still just waiting to see.”
For the second straight year, King’s is set to graduate a premier goal-scorer. But as Gabelein described, the Knights also are losing a strong leader who helped bring the team together.
“She was really leading some of the up-and-coming players, getting them more experience and kind of helping to mentor them along the way, which was nice to see,” Gabelein said. “That’s the kind of player that she was — bringing these other girls up around her to teach them the way.”