When King’s Way Christian allowed eight eighth graders to play on its girls soccer team in an effort to even field a team in the first place, head coach Tina Ellertson was, admittedly, thinking long term.
She saw how talented the group of middle schoolers were and knew at the high school level they could soar.
Five years and now five district titles later, it appears the plan worked out just fine.
The Knights beat Montesano 2-0 on Saturday afternoon to claim their fifth consecutive district title.
Hoisting the trophy after the game were six of the original eighth graders — a feat perhaps as remarkable as it rare.
“If we could keep them together we knew it could be something special,” Ellertson said. “And you can see it on the pitch in how well they move off each other and how well they work together and respect each other. It’s just a special thing to have a group together for five years. You don’t get to do that.”
The thought of doing it a fifth year even added pressure.
“We were all super nervous before the game,” senior midfielder Lucy Mohammadi said.
King’s Way finished 10-0 in 1A Trico League play while allowing just two goals, but played Montesano to a competitive 3-3 draw during the nonleague schedule in September.
For much of Saturday’s game, it appeared to be headed the same way. The Knights dominated possession and created opportunities from the opening whistle, but struggled putting those shots on frame.
Its normal combo plays, set pieces and crosses were connecting, but the shots weren’t falling.
“We’ve had a lot of combination plays to find goal and this game it was a struggle. We were nervous, we weren’t really connecting our passes,” Mohammadi said.
They hit a point in the second half where Ellertson called to MacKenzie Ellertson, King’s Way’s leading goal-scorer, to be direct-to-goal.
In a sense, to take over.
With 12 minutes left in the game, the Washington State commit did just that. She scored two goals — both unassisted — to etch onto the scoreboard proof of what the Knights’ offense had created all game.
“Just had to keep trying, keep pushing through, one was going to fall,” Ellertson said.
For MacKenzie Ellertson, holding up the trophy — and doing so with the girls she’s played with for so long — has been playing with for most of her life (“I’ve been playing with some of these girls since we were in fourth grade,” goalie Hannah Moats said.)
Ellertson, a senior, sat out her junior high school season to play with a Redmond-based U.S. Soccer Development Academy, a decision many of the top-tier girls soccer players are forced to make.
She decided to return to the Knights for her senior season, and the feeling of five-peating Saturday gave reason enough as to why, she said.
“I’m so happy I came back,” she said. “So happy. I couldn’t watch again. Last year was tough to watch them. They could totally do it (without me) but I’m so excited to be a part of it.”
But Saturday’s win is a checked box for the Knights. Both teams already earned state berths and were playing for seeding. With the win, King’s Way will host the first round of state at home.
Last year, it made the program’s deepest run by making it to the second round. This season, the Knights hope to go deeper.
“It’s kind of a stepping stone to what we’re actually striving for,” Moats said. “This is our real season. This is what we were preparing for.”
KING’S WAY 2, MONTESANO 0
Goals (assists) — MacKenzie Ellertson (unassisted), MacKenzie Ellertson (unassisted). Goalkeeper saves — Hannah Moats 4.
Halftime — 0-0.