King’s Way Christian has been a mainstay of girls soccer success under coach Tina Ellertson.
And the Knights have made the state tournament in each of her three years at the helm. But each of those years, they’ve have lost in the first round.
So Ellertson made sure that by the time state rolls around this season, the team will have seen tough non-league matchups.
And if anything can be gleaned from Thursday night’s 7-0 thrashing of 1A Trico league opponent La Center, it’s that her plan may be starting to play off.
“We try to play in (nonleague) some of the teams we’re going to play at state,” Ellertson said. “You just never know what you’re going to see at state. I hope we really grow in these games, and try to play at a higher level, because that’s what state is.”
King’s Way (5-1, 3-0 Trico) opened the season with a 4-1 loss to defending state champion Overlake of Redmond, which it considered to be a valuable experience.
Since then, the Knights have won five straight by a combined margin of 28-0, including Thursday’s win over a La Center team that was previously 2-0 in league play.
And they’re doing it all without junior Mackenzie Ellertson, who is sitting out the season due to a back injury and a club soccer commitment that bars her from playing high school.
“La Center is a well-coached team,” Ellertson said. “In the first half we were struggling to figure it out.”
But if the Knights had a hard time adjusting to the Wildcats’ central attack, it didn’t show.
King’s Way got on the board in the ninth minute, when Aurora Espinoza-Chaney linked a through-ball to Elise Schey, who outpaced the defense and finished on the ground past the goalkeeper.
Then Espinoza-Chaney, a freshman, sounded off for two more goals — in the 26th and 28 minute — and Schey delivered one more before the break.
The Knights took a 4-0 lead into halftime.
“We wanted to come out strong, because some of in our other games we’ve come out slow and got our goals in the second half,” Espinoza-Chaney said.
She finished with two goals and an assist, and has brought a new element to the Knights with the ability to hulk a throw-in a long way, essentially making any throw-in inside the opponent’s final third of the field a sort of corner kick.
Players were quick to heap praise the freshman’s way.
“She has that long throw, which is special, she can shoot, she sees the field well — she’s a good all-around player,” Ellertson said.
Schey finished with a hattrick when she scored late in the second. But the team did not make it out of the evening without a stroke of misfortune. Junior Alyssa Kainu suffered a broken tibula and fibia and was carted off the field in the first half when she collided with a La Center player.
Junior defender Amber Kolb was a part of a group of players who played for the team as eighth graders. When they made the playoffs that year, Kolb said they were encouraged by getting there, but knew it wasn’t their time.
The next two seasons, losing stung a little bit more.
“That one hit us like, woah,” she said. “But then we were like, ‘OK, this is good.’ And (playing Overlake) helped us out the most. We learned how to connect through instead of just freak out and kick it.”
The team believes it’s poised to break through.
“I think it’s establishing ourselves,” Schey said, “setting ourselves up for the rest of the season.”
Kolb said the goal, loud and clear.
“We are trying to go farther in state than we did last year,” Kolb said. “We are making it past the first round, that is our goal.”