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News / Sports / Prep Sports

All-Region Girls Soccer: Shaela Bradley, La Center

Senior led Wildcats to their first 1A final four appearance

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 8, 2023, 6:05am
3 Photos
La Center senior midfielder Shaela Bradley shields off Klahowya junior Amira Lyons in a 1A State girls soccer semifinal game on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, at Mount Tahoma Stadium in Tacoma.
La Center senior midfielder Shaela Bradley shields off Klahowya junior Amira Lyons in a 1A State girls soccer semifinal game on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, at Mount Tahoma Stadium in Tacoma. (Joshua Hart/For The Columbian) Photo Gallery

La Center’s soccer program helped Shaela Bradley grow as a player and person.

Since joining the Portland Thorns FC Academy six years ago, Bradley has compiled a long list of accomplishments as a club player while seeing a high quality of play around the country and internationally.

This past season, Bradley was named Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) Northwest Conference Player of the Year, further confirming the midfielder is one of the top players her age in the country.

So why play high school soccer at La Center?

Bradley’s freshman year in high school, 2020-21, coincided with the pandemic. Distance learning meant there weren’t many chances to meet and interact with classmates in person. Joining the Wildcats’ soccer program allowed Bradley to make those connections and build friendships.

“I actually made two very good friends from soccer, so I would say it worked out great,” Bradley said. “That’s (what) I really wanted. I just needed to be a bit more social too, just because of COVID and stuff. I wanted to get out of the house. Soccer was a great avenue for it.”

As Bradley grew during her four-year varsity career, so too did the Wildcats. Bradley, The Columbian’s All-Region girls soccer player of the year, led La Center to the program’s first trip to the state final four, where it earned the Class 1A state fourth-place trophy in November.

The senior, who is signed to Rutgers, ended her prep career with 137 goals, including all five of the Wildcats’ goals in the state playoffs. Though La Center’s season ended with losses in the state semifinals and third-place match, Bradley and her teammates set a new standard for future Wildcats teams to follow.

“It was a little bit sad that we lost games. But aside from that … I think it really brought a sense of community to the whole team,” Bradley said of the Wildcats’ trip to Tacoma for the final four.

“During the games … I think everyone was a little nervous. And that’s OK to be nervous. That just means that you care. I think it was just a good sense of experience for everyone.”

The Wildcats last reached the state playoffs in the 2021 fall season, Bradley’s sophomore year, and made it their mission to return this fall under first-year head coach Horst Malunat. They soared above that goal.

After winning both the Trico League and District 4 titles, La Center claimed its first state girls soccer playoff win, a 3-2 nail-biter over Meridian in which Bradley scored the go-ahead goal in the waning seconds. Bradley also scored the Wildcats’ lone goal in a quarterfinal win against Cashmere to send them to the state final four.

“The whole season, she’s made the people around her better,” Malunat said. “When she needs to, she can score.”

Six years ago Bradley joined the Thorns Academy, which has been “so impactful on my life,” she said. She’s since become one of the top youth players in the country, and has made some once-in-a-lifetime memories through the game.

In May, she was one of several players selected to train in Germany with FC Bayern Munich’s women’s Bundesliga teams, giving her an opportunity to learn from top professional players at one of the best clubs in the world, while also taking in new cultural experiences. The nine-day trip was her first time visiting Europe.

“I got to take the train into Munich and see a ton of stuff, which was also really cool,” Bradley said. “Except it was a little bit harder because I don’t speak German … But it was really nice because they actually do speak a lot of English over there.”

Weeks later, she was called up by the U-17 U.S. Women’s National Team for a seven-day training camp in North Carolina. The level of play was eye-opening for Bradley, one of 23 players selected.

“Oh my gosh, it was just amazing,” she said. “The coaching there is outstanding. Being around the players in that atmosphere, it just kind of showed me what I need to be at to get invited back. I had a great time.”

Those experiences will serve her well as she embarks on her next chapter at Rutgers, a Big Ten Conference school some 3,000 miles away from Southwest Washington.

Bradley’s experiences at La Center also shaped her. She accepted the challenge of becoming a leader while helping the program reach newfound success. On the other side, she emerged a more confident person.

“On the field and off the field, I think I’ve developed more into a leader,” Bradley said. “… I think I’ve also gotten that confidence to kind of step into that role from freshman year. … I wouldn’t say I was intimidated, but I was not outgoing. So, I think now I’m just more confident in myself. I think that’s also shown on the field too.”


Player of the Year: Shaela Bradley, La Center

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Stephanie Leckwold, Union: The senior goalkeeper earned 4A GSHL Defensive Player of the Year honors with 58 saves, five shutouts and a 1.1 goal average against.

Peyton Dukes, Columbia River: The junior 2A GSHL Defensive Most Valuable Player anchored a Rapids defense that gave up only 11 goals. Netted nine goals and six assists as River took third at the 2A state tournament.

Nora Martin, Ridgefield: The junior’s switch to center back was meant to be temporary, but proved to be a revelation on a back line that allowed only eight goals for the 2A state champion Spudders.

Parker Mairs, Camas: The senior midfielder was named 4A GSHL Offensive POY with 18 goals and nine assists. Co-captain led Camas to the 4A state tournament. Signed to Colorado Mesa University.

Maddie Thorsen, Prairie: The senior midfielder, also signed to Colorado Mesa, excelled as the Falcons’ go-to leader en route to winning the 3A GSHL title. Tallied 11 goals and two assists.

Abby Dombrow, Hockinson: The senior midfielder powered the Hawks in their run to 2A state quarterfinals with eight goals, including two in the playoffs, and two assists. Signed to Weber State.

Josie Brandenburg, Kalama: The senior midfielder capped a stellar five-year career with the Chinooks leading the team to a 2B state runner-up finish. The Central 2B League MVP had 27 goals and 23 assists.

Adrianne Agbayani, Evergreen: The senior posted 23 goals and 13 assists to break school records for single-season and career goals, while leading Evergreen to the 3A bi-district tournament. Signed to South Dakota State.

Tori Lasch, Ridgefield: The junior forward led the Spudders with 21 goals and 13 assists. Her versatility on the field, combined with a relentless defensive motor, consistently put pressure on opponents.

Lauryn Krith, Mountain View: The senior forward, a four-time 3A GSHL all-league first team pick, posted nine goals and three assists as the Thunder reached the 3A state tournament.

Kathryn Chapin, R.A. Long: Twice named the 2A GSHL Offensive MVP, the senior forward helped the Lumberjills reach the 2A state tournament while battling injuries down the stretch. Posted program record 33 goals.