HOCKINSON — The Hockinson Hawks would love the attention in mid-November, if they can make it there, if they can win the final match of the high school girls soccer season.
Their coach, however, would not mind if nobody really noticed them in September and October.
“I just try to keep their ears plugged and keep working,” Joe Chicks said of his players. “It’s hard to hear how good you are all the time.”
Too late for that, though.
Not after last season. Not after what Columbia River and Ridgefield did last year in the state playoffs.
If a team makes it out of District 4, there is a chance.
And this year, Hockinson plans on surviving District 4, advancing to state, and playing until the calendar runs out of soccer dates.
Only, the Hawks can’t really talk about that yet. Not out loud anyway.
“We want to win state,” Trinity Paulsen said in a whisper, so her coach could not hear during a recent interview session.
She quickly followed that by loudly claiming all the Hawks wanted to do now is focus on their next match.
Recent history suggests the Hawks will have their opportunity. A year ago, Hockinson tied for the 2A Greater St. Helens League regular-season title with Columbia River and Ridgefield. They all took turns defeating one another. But in the district tournament, it was Columbia River and Ridgefield that survived. Hockinson fell one win short of going to state.
And at state, Ridgefield reached the state quarterfinals and Columbia River won the whole thing.
Yes, it was great for Southwest Washington girls soccer — Camas also won the 4A state title — but it also left the Hawks wondering what could have been.
They won’t have to wonder if things go their way this season. The Hawks have 10 seniors this season, led by Paulsen, who expects to sign with the University of Washington. Paulsen, Jenna Talarico, Kayla Sills, and Allyson Findlay all made first-team, all-league last year. Findlay was named the co-defensive player of the year. Two more — Brianna Grosz and Alyssa Chapin — made the second team.
Talarico, the team’s captain, said the Hawks have been talking about this season since they were sophomores. They knew this was their window of opportunity.
They also know they must follow their coach’s advice.
“He wants a championship team-type focus all year long,” Talarico said.
True, Columbia River is the defending state champion. So the Chieftains will be getting everyone’s best effort. Hockinson, though, with so much talent returning, is another team that has that target.
Last week, Washougal took a 2-1 lead over Hockinson in the second half. Paulsen would score three goals in the final 15 minutes for a Hawks’ victory. After the match, the coach reminded his players that they must take care of business now in order to do so in November.
“We’re trying not to focus on the outsiders, what people are saying. ‘Hey, this is the year.’ We need to focus on what we need to be doing,” Paulsen said. “Forget about what people are saying and focus on ourselves.”
Victories do not happen because a team is just “supposed” to win. They come from putting in the training in order to win.
“If we’re winning, it’s because we did what we are supposed to do, what we’ve been working to do,” Natalie Johnson said.
Johnson, by the way, along with Jennifer Baertlein and Alivia Quitugua were honorable mention last season. Yes, the Hawks have nine all-stars on their squad this season.
Plus a few younger players have joined the Hawks.
In August, the team went for a bit of a “boot camp” in Whidbey Island. The players stayed in barracks and trained multiple times a day.
It was the off-the-field activities, though, that brought them closer together: Dancing on the tables, singing.
“The freshmen think we’re crazy,” Paulsen said. “We’re a little wild for them.”
All in good fun, though. The team even met some hippies and learned some hippie songs and now talk about the power of the goat. Yes, goat. No explanation given. Just that. Oh, and Paulsen joked that it would be great for the Hawks to bring a goat to a match.
At least, Hockinson officials hope it is a joke.
“For the past years, we had some cliques,” Talarico acknowledged. “It didn’t affect our play that much, but we’re always looking to get better. It’s one family now.”
A strong family pulls for one another. Three of the seniors already know their futures. Baertlein is going to play for Central Washington and Quitugua is headed to Southern Oregon. Other seniors are waiting but hope to play in college, too.
Then there is the Pac-12 talent.
Paulsen said she always wanted to play in the Pac-12 and stay in state, which means she only had two options. She said she fell in love with UW and Seattle. That was that.
She also never doubted herself, never wondered if she was good enough for that level.
“I always thought I could do this,” she said. “I never thought otherwise.”
The power of positive thinking can go a long way.
“We’re just trying to stay inspired every time we go out,” Chicks said.
The Hockinson Hawks believe they can join the ranks of the great teams from Southwest Washington. They just have to say it in a whisper right now because, after all, it is still September.
They hope they will be able to shout about it on Nov. 18.