Paul Valencia: Ridgefield soccer looks to make cut at state

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

It is difficult to find a place to start when describing the Ridgefield girls soccer team.

Too many good things happening at the same time with the Spudders.

How about 33-0?

That’s the team’s record the past two years in league and district play.

Or 95-3?

That’s the cumulative score this season. The Spudders are 16-0, outscoring opponents by 92 goals.

Those are just the hard, cold numbers.

Everything else regarding Ridgefield girls soccer is love, friendship, community.

“It’s a program. It’s a family. We’re all together,” senior Chelsea Boni said.

Consider that there were no cuts this year in the program. And not one player quit this season.

“We are so proud of that,” Ridgefield coach Robby Trimbo said. “Every single kid who came out worked their butts off, too.”

The Spudders have to work hard, in order to please their second-year coach.

Senior Emily Burton said she and her teammates noticed a difference as soon as Trimble took over the program last season.

“He just pushed us more than we had been pushed before,” Burton said. “We weren’t used to the intensity he brought to practice. We wanted to make him happy. We didn’t want to disappoint him.”

“He pushes us past what we thought was our best,” senior Natalie Knottnerus added.

Interestingly, Trimbo says it is the other way around. He works in Vancouver, and every day as he drives north to practice, he is eager to get there, just knowing he has a group of players who are so dedicated to the game.

“I don’t want to disappoint them,” he said.

A year ago, the Spudders had that fantastic first season under Trimbo. Yet, there were question marks coming into Year 2 of the Trimbo era.

“We had a meeting. Was last year a fluke?” he asked his team. “We lost some really big senior leadership last year.”

No problem.

Boni, Burton, Knottnerus, and Kayla Locken stepped up this season.

Or did they?

They are so humble, they don’t think they did anything special as this year’s seniors.

“We just kept them pumped up and ready to go,” Locken said, referring to the younger players.

“We have a great program, and every new year brings amazing talent to Ridgefield High School,” Boni said.

Junior Lizzie Vance leads the squad with 14 goals and 13 assists this season. Her coach calls her the on-field “heart and soul” of the team.

“I’m just trying to lead by example and pump up my team by talking and going hard for every ball,” Vance said.

Her style, the team’s style, has found an audience. The Spudders draw a crowd to their matches. Not just parents. But student body sections. Heck, there is a rooter bus for fans to take to Kalama for Thursday’s district championship match.

A rooter bus. For a 1A girls soccer program.

Those fans chant. They do the “Olé” song. They get into it.

The athletes say it creates a fantastic atmosphere.

“It kind of feels like we’re on the football team,” Burton said. “They really get into it. We play really well in front of our fans.”

Knottnerus acknowledged that also brings a little more pressure to the team. The Spudders want to perform well in front of their friends. Even with that little extra pressure, though, she knows the presence of those fans is a benefit.

“It intimidates the other team,” Knottnerus said.

Indeed, the Spudders have not given up a goal on their home field in two seasons.

But now the postseason is upon us. Ridgefield will face Montesano on Thursday in Kalama for the district championship. After that, the opening round of state awaits the Spudders.

Last year, after the perfect regular season and then the district title, the Spudders lost in that opening round at state to Overlake of Redmond, 1-0.

“It was an eye-opener for us,” Locken said. “It was a good motivator for us.”

Knottnerus was more direct, to the point.

“Not this year,” she said of the possibility of losing early. “All the way. We want to win state.”

With the no-cut, all-working-together family, with the incredible regular season streak, and with a fanatical fan base, it sure seems that no matter what happens in the coming days, it has been another successful soccer campaign in Ridgefield.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com.