Headlines: What a Season!
Team Wins Championship 1-0 in Double-Overtime
Finishes Undefeated at 17-0-2
Hannah Jenkins Named League MVP
Tom Moore Named NWAC Coach of the Year
Six T-Birds make NWAC All-Star Team
Highline Defeats Peninsula 1-0 For Title
Sophia Leer Hits Winning Goal in Double Overtime
Hannah Jenkins Named MVP
Hannah Jenkins to an NWAC reporter about the Highline defense: “We’re filthy, we’re nasty, and we don’t go down without a fight.”“”We’re filthy, we’re nasty, and we don’t go down without a fight.”
Nov. 17 – you could tell they were tired. They seemed a step slower, moving a little sluggishly, their passes lacked crispness, and their distance kicks didn’t go quite as far. They were having trouble clearing the ball from their end. It came as no surprise; they were in the second overtime in the championship match against Peninsula, and this was their second double-overtime match in less than 48 hours, following a penalty shootout win over Walla Walla in the semi-finals. With a bench of only three players to start both contest, almost half the Thunderbird starters had played every minute of both contests. Peninsula, on the other hand, had been substituting liberally throughout the match. And now in this second overtime, with two starters now out with leg injuries and no fresh players to bring in, Highline was hanging on by its fingernails, saved only by Peninsula near misses and a series of sprawling saves by the preternaturally calm Highline freshman goalkeeper Kate Nelson.
And then it changed. With a couple of minutes left in the second overtime and just when it seemed the championship would be decided by a penalty shootout, the T-Birds finally did clear the ball out of their zone and down the right side of the field. Hannah Anderson, the team’s leading scorer and assist leader, received the ball and made the most out of a seemingly innocuous situation by spotting substitute forward and backup goalkeeper Sophia Leer in space in front of the Peninsula goal. Anderson placed the ball at the feet of Leer for Highline’s last, best scoring opportunity. And Leer made the most of it. She blasted a kick from 14 yards in the center of the penalty box, leaving no chance for Peninsula goalkeeper Andrea Kenagy, who had forced the match into a second overtime with a sensational first-overtime save off a breakaway opportunity by Highline forward Rayna Santiago.
In the end, it was the Highline defense, sparked by a back line of freshmen Raquel Johnson and Cortney Cullision flanking sophomore Hannah Jenkins, with Nelson in goal, which bent but didn’t break and proved decisive. Jenkins, named as MVP of the championship tournament after being named MVP of the NWAC West Division, made perhaps the finest defensive play of the year in the first overtime when she ran down a Peninsula attacker who had gotten behind the Highline defense and before the shot could be taken, made a precise sliding tackle to kick the ball out-of-bounds without drawing a foul.
In the final NWAC Coaches Women’s Soccer poll to end the regular season, Highline was ranked #3 behind #2 Walla Walla and #1 Peninsula. Of the three teams, Highline had given up a league best six goals, closely followed by Peninsula allowing only seven. With these two teams meeting for the title on a cool, gray, misty day it was only appropriate that defense would dominate through regulation time and almost two overtimes until the backup goalkeeper for Highline, assisted by Highline’s leading scorer, found herself with a clear shot. She didn’t miss and the Thunderbirds could celebrate a well-deserved win based on defense, opportune offense, and most of all, grit.
Also see the NWAC Conference article “Highline defeats Peninsula 1-0 in double overtime to claim third school title.”
Article from the Peninsula Daily News “Peninsula Falls in Final Seconds.”
Sophia Leer with the winning goal.
Sophia Leer (back to camera) in the process of getting mobbed by teammates.
Post-game handshakes with Peninsula.
The 2019 Women’s Soccer Champions
Hannah Jenkins Named League Most Valuable Player
Smothering Defense Leads to Multiple Awards
Simply stated, she was the best defender on the best defensive team in the Northwest Athletics Conference. Highline surrendered only six goals in 19 matches on its way to the NWAC championship, and Jenkins, a sophomore, was the heart and soul of Highline’s smothering defense. A NWAC First Team All-Star, she also won the MVP of the NWAC West Division and then was named MVP of the playoffs. And finally, to show her dominance, she was named the league MVP, an honor that is almost always reserved for offensive players. Asked specifically by a reporter about Jenkins following Highline’s championship win over Peninsula 1-0 in double-overtime, Highline assistant coach Masree Butler stated “That girl works so hard, she’s a hell of an athlete, hell of a baller.. . . She’s genetically gifted. You add on discipline and hard work, it all pans out.” And so it did for Hannah Jenkins, who now has to find room for yet another trophy.
Tom Moore Named NWAC Coach of the Year
It wasn’t so much winning a championship that got Tom Moore named 2019 NWAC Coach of the Year as it was how he did it. Playing almost the entire season with no more than 13 players, he built a team that finished 17-0-2, centered around a smothering defense allowing a league best six goals and an opportunistic offense that was 3rd in the league with 63 goals. Without being able to substitute liberally, Moore had to pick his spots when to give the starters a break and using his bench interchangeably while putting them in a position to succeed. After a season of this it was only a little surprising that in the championship match against Peninsula, with the score tied 0-0 deep into the second overtime, and with two starters on the bench with leg injuries, it was Sophia Leer, the backup goalkeeper playing as a forward, who scored the winning goal off a perfect assist by Hannah Anderson. The championship was Moore’s second, following Highline’s title run in 2017, which followed a finals appearance in 2015. In his tenure as Highline head coach Moore has turned the Thunderbirds into one of the NWAC’s elite programs, and 2019 was certainly one of his most challenging as a coach, and thus quite rewarding considering the results.
In addition to Hannah Jenkins being named NWAC Women’s Soccer Player of the Year and Tom Moore as Coach of the Year, Highline placed six players, including Jenkins, on the NWAC All-Star team.
Hannah Anderson (midfield)
led the team in scoring with 33 points (12 goals, 9 assists). Made the perfect assist leading to the winning goal in Highline’s 1-0 double-overtime championship win over Peninsula. Provided physical and mental toughness in midfield.
Hannah Jenkins (defense)
the best defender in the NWAC; league and playoff MVP. Starred for the best defensive team in the league. Dominated the defensive end. Steady, consistent, fast, daring, often spectacular. Quite probably the best athlete in the league. Played every minute of the season.
Rayna Santiago (forward)
scored 12 goals and had 8 assists despite missing several games with a back injury. A relentless attacker. Led the team with four goals that proved to be the game winner.
Kate Nelson (goalkeeper)
preternaturally calm as a freshman keeper. Unflappable. Not afraid to throw her body around in the crease to make saves. Led the league with 12 shutouts and a .34 goals against average.
Skyylerblu Johnson (midfield)
had 6 goals and 6 assists while providing a steadying influence in midfield. Provided much valued leadership as a sophomore. Equally adept at the offensive and defensive end.
Raquel Johnson (defense)
an excellent freshman year on defense. Rarely out-of-position and a fast learner. Excellent make-up speed. Proved unafraid to make runs upfield when the play opened. Played every minute of the season.
2019 Highline Women’s Soccer Team
Back Row (L to R): Raquel Johnson; Hannah Jenkins; Cassidy O’Dell; Rayna Santiago; Cortney Cullison; Savannah Nichols; Alyssa Andrews
Front Row (L to R): Sophia Leer; Hannah Anderson; Kaitlyn Hamilton; Abigail Carmel; Skyylerblu Johnson; Lilya Stepchuk; Kate Nelson