Back in 2010, seniors in high school this year were just a mere 5 years old. Probably just starting their educational lives. In that year, Kentlake’s girls soccer team made the state tournament for the fourth time in school history.
This year, those 4- and 5-year-olds ended the drought.
For the first time since that 2010 season, the Falcons girls soccer team is going to the state tournament. This year’s Falcons team is just the fifth team in school history to make the year end tournament.
The Falcons got to the Class 3A state playoffs from a solid regular season, finishing second behind Auburn Riverside. Kentlake rode a four-game winning streak to close out its season.
“We have grit. As a team, we work really well together, there’s no conflict … This year has been really inclusive, and we’ve been able to work together a lot more. There is a lot of talent on this team,” said senior Hayden Rallo.
In the Falcons’ first playoff game, they took on the eventual district winners, Stadium. The game didn’t go Kentlake’s way, and they fell 4-0, which left a bad taste in the mouth of Falcons players.
“As a team we stayed on our toes, didn’t look at records and just went in with a clean slate … We were angry, we didn’t like how the score ended up after playing Stadium. So, it lit a fire under our butts,” said Charli Culp.
They turned around and played Evergreen and clinched a playoff spot, winning 4-0 against the Plainsmen. The first goal was scored by Olivia Taisey and that settled all the Falcons into the playoff atmosphere.
“I could sense everyone was a little tense and nervous. After Liv scored that beautiful goal, I feel like it loosened up everyone and gave us confidence,” Culp said.
The win signified something more for the Falcons.
“It just made us more confident as a team. It paid off having all these practices in the rain and wind and all that stuff. It really shows the payoff and how well we’ve done this season,” Culp said.
“Breaking that 10-year dry spell was something we had in the back of our heads,” said Co-Head Coach Kameron Kendig. “We knew they could do it and when that final whistle blew, we were so excited.”
Twenty teams made the 3A tournament, and Kentlake is seeded 20th. The Falcons take on 13th-seeded Oak Harbor Nov. 7 in a first four matchup and the winner advances to the main draw. A win over Oak Harbor would be the first in school history in the sport. A victory would advance Kentlake to a Nov. 10 game at fourth-seeded Lakeside in Seattle.
“It would be a good way to go out with a bang. It excites me because my freshman year the team wasn’t the greatest. It’s exciting for me now because I know that future players will see ‘Oh my gosh, they made it to state,’” said Culp.
Making this milestone also puts some respect on the Kentlake program.
“I think a lot of other schools look down on us. This gives us a way to show them that we belong,” Rolla said.
Head Coaches Joe Grijalva and Kameron Kendig are in their first season as co-head coaches this year. Grijalva is in his first year at Kentlake since he stopped coaching at Chief Sealth in 2016.
Along with Kendig, Grijalva got this team over the hump.
“He’s brought camaraderie to the team and positivity… Having Coach Joe and Kameron here, as committed as they are and as positive as they are, has made us love the sport more, excited for us to come back to the school. It’s what keeps us going at each game and each practice,” Culp said.
The Falcons have a three-hour bus ride out to Whidbey Island to take on Oak Harbor, but this week leading up to the game, the focus has been top notch.
“We’re ready. It’s all about our mentality,” Rallo said. “The anticipation is going to build and by the time we get there. I think we’re going to be really excited and pumped up.”