OLYMPIA — These days, Sophie Kabel’s lips are sealed.
Oh, she’s more than happy to talk about the Olympia High School girls soccer team’s road to the Class 4A state semifinals — the program’s deepest run since 1995. Or how the close-knit team of 22 players has been in a playoff frenzy the past two weeks.
But ask her about her success in shootouts, and the Olympia goalkeeper becomes quiet.
“I should keep those a secret for now,” Kabel said.
What she has done, though, says a lot. In three shootout wins this postseason, the sophomore has saved seven penalty-kick shots. In the Bears’ other playoff game – a 2-0 win over Edmonds-Woodway – she was credited with a clean sheet and 10 saves.
Kabel does allow this in regards to how much practice playing keeper requires: “A ton,” she said.
At 15 years old and 5-foot-5, the first-year varsity player is a big reason why the Bears (15-3-2) are in the final four. Olympia will play Issaquah (14-4-1) at 8 p.m. Friday at Puyallup’s Sparks Stadium in one semifinal. Should the Bears advance to the championship game, they would play at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Olympia coach Tessa Effland said that as much as skill and hand-eye coordination are
needed to be a successful keeper, the mental aspect is just as important. Kabel, who has allowed eight goals in 20 games, is mentally tough, Effland said.
“I’ve never had a keeper that can stay mentally focused the entire 80 minutes,” Effland said. “When we go into (penalty kicks), the girls know she’s going to do everything she can to get us to the next level. If it wasn’t for Sophie, we are not getting out of districts.”
Puyallup coach Matt White can attest to that.
Kabel made three penalty-kick saves for the second consecutive game in Olympia’s 1-0 (3-1 shootout) victory over the Vikings in a winner-to-state contest Nov. 9. White thought he knew Kabel’s skills after watching film from the Olympia-Thomas Jefferson game two days earlier, but that changed when it came time for the penalty kicks.
“She knows exactly where the shot is going and gets there,” White said. “Yeah, she’s a monster at PKs.”
When it came time for his team’s shootout against Olympia, White started with whom he called his “disguised lefty” and planned to have another left-footer be the fifth shooter.
That never happened, though.
“We never got to No. 5 because she (Kabel) saved three in a row,” White said.
Kabel has been forced into shootouts in playoff games against Thomas Jefferson, Puyallup and then Inglemoor last Friday. The score against Inglemoor was 1-1 at the end of regulation, but after two scoreless five-minute overtimes Olympia won the shootout, 4-2, sending Kabel and her teammates into the state semifinals.
“That was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far this season,” Kabel said. “It was amazing.”
In the 4A Narrows League, Olympia doesn’t play in overtime or shootouts. So how can a team that doesn’t have shootouts during the regular season win three of its four playoff games via shootouts?
It began roughly 40 days ago, Effland said. Every practice ends with penalty kicks for all 22 players, and that has made the difference this postseason.
“It’s definitely a switch that goes on,” Kabel said. “It’s one of those things that you lock into and you really focus to get it done.”
WIAA Class 4A girls soccer championships
At Sparks Stadium, Puyallup
Friday’s state semifinals
Central Valley (16-1-1) vs. Mead (17-3-1), 6 p.m.
Olympia (15-3-2) vs. Issaquah (14-4-1), 8 p.m.
Third-/fourth-place game, noon
State championship game, 4 p.m.
Olympia stat worthy: F Jenna Killman, fr., 14 goals, 10 assists; GK Sophie Kabel, so., eight goals against, 13 shutouts.
Issaquah stat worthy: F Devan Talley, jr., 14 goals; MF Annie Hoffman, jr., 7 assists.
The lowdown: The youthful Bears were the 4A Narrows League runners-up. They’re making their first state semifinal appearance since 1995, when they played for the state title. Defense — led by 4A Narrows MVP Megan Spataro — comes first for the Bears, who have allowed 11 goals all season. Should the game go into a shootout, the Bears might have an advantage; three of their four postseason games have resulted in shootout victories. Tradition-rich Issaquah has played in six state championship games since 2004, winning titles in ’04, ’06 and ’07. The Eagles finished third in the KingCo, but they upended defending 4A state champion and conference rival Skyline in a shootout last week to reach the semifinals. Hoffman (Boise State) and senior forward Rachel Wheeler (Kentucky) are Division I-bound players.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/ south-sound-sports-blog @megwochnick email@example.com