Tamara Liska had been an assistant soccer coach at Capital High School with only a passing knowledge of Olympia’s roster when she took over as the Bears’ head coach last spring.
Jenna Killman, Olympia’s senior midfielder and forward, impressed her in offseason gym and weight training workouts with her leadership and work ethic. Finally, summer practices began.
“I was like, ‘Oh, hello!’ ” Liska remembers. “Her footwork was amazing. I’d seen her energy level in the gym, but seeing her ball skills was impressive.”
Killman, who led the Bears to a district playoff berth by scoring 16 goals and adding four assists, is The Olympian’s 2016 All-Area girls soccer player of the year. She says it’s a good thing for her athletic career that she was gifted with those particular skills.
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She tried basketball and gymnastics, but gave up other sports to focus on soccer in the eighth grade.
“I have really bad hand-eye coordination,” Killman said with a laugh. “It’s always been better for me to have a ball at my feet.”
Better for her, but not for her opponents. Both Liska, and Killman’s club coach, Seth Spidahl of Washington Premier FC, praise her ability to combine speed and ball skills with what Spidahl calls a “hard to teach” soccer IQ.
“She sees movement all over the field and knows what needs to happen next,” Liska said.
“Most goals in soccer are scored from inside the 18-yard box,” Spidahl said. “Jenna has a good sense of how to find that 1-yard gap that allows her to get off a quality shot. She’s a hard player to control all game.”
Sometimes, she can’t be controlled at all. In a game against Graham-Kapowsin, Killman — who was also named the Class 4A South Puget Sound League’s most valuable offensive player in Olympia’s first season in the league — scored four times.
“I like taking people on, and I do think I have a good sense of time and space, where people need to be,” she said.
Her accomplishments and potential didn’t go unnoticed at the highest level of intercollegiate soccer. She’ll play Division I ball next fall at the University of New Mexico, a Mountain West Conference school that just completed a second consecutive winning season under coach Heather Dyche.
Everything lined up for Killman on her official visit to Albuquerque.
“I fell in love with the coach, she’s such a rock, and the atmosphere of the program,” Killman said. “A lot of the girls who will be coming in with me were visiting the same weekend and we bonded. It’ll be nice to get out of Washington, too, and have a fresh start.”
Liska and Spidahl agree that Killman can succeed in college by continuing the growth of her already sound game.
“She’ll just need to work at being physically stronger,” Liska said. “She has the skills.”
“The game is going to get faster,” Spidahl said. “She’s a great athlete with a great attitude, though, so she’ll need to learn to do the things she does now at a faster and higher level.”
Both of Killman’s coaches come back time and again to her mental approach to the sport and to being a part of a team.
“I’ve only gotten to coach her this one year,” Liska said. “But I’ve seen her leadership skills increase. She’s more confident in being a vocal leader. She pushes her teammates and they push her. The upcoming players get to see what she’s done and how she’s done it to reach the level she has.”
“She’s a great soccer player, but an even better person,” Spidahl said.
Killman, who plans to major in either business or engineering at New Mexico, credits her coaches for giving her instruction in more than just soccer.
“Seth teaches us we’re people before we’re players,” she said. “And the Olympia coaching staff supports me and my teammates so well. I wouldn’t trade this past season for anything.”
The Olympian’s 2016 All-Area girls soccer team
Player of the year: F Jenna Killman, Olympia, sr.
Coach of the year: Brett Bartlett, Tumwater
Forward — Bella Foos, Tumwater, sr.: Towers over defenders and is quick down the field. Led the T-Birds to the 2A state playoffs with a team-high 23 goals and willing to defend from the front. Was a first-team 2A Evergreen Conference forward.
Forward — Sydney Lowe, Black Hills, jr.: Sometimes a forward, sometimes a midfielder, she was named the 2A EvCo offensive player of the year. Scored 13 goals, and added six assists for the Wolves.
Forward — Val Morales, Yelm, sr.: Used speed to create turnovers and counter quickly, scoring 12 goals. Also acted as the first line of defense, frustrating defenders trying to move upfield. Was a first-team 3A South Sound Conference selection.
Midfielder — Bella Brown, Black Hills, jr.: Led and organized the Wolves on the field, and split evenly between goals and assists — eight apiece. Was selected to the 2A EvCo first team.
Midfielder — Stephanie Moore, Tumwater, sr.: Bartlett says the 2A EvCo first-teamer is strong and fast — great in the air, and a monster on the ground. Has a cannon for a shot, which led to 18 goals for the T-Birds.
Midfielder — Sydney Wilson, Capital, jr.: The first-team 3A SSC selection kept the Cougars, who struggled with injuries all season, on track. Led Capital in scoring, often creating opportunities in traffic.
Defender — Olivia Kay, Olympia, sr.: The rock of the Bears’ defense, which allowed less than a goal per game during the regular season, and never more than three. Was a first-team 4A SPSL selection.
Defender — Lucy Hyde, Yelm, sr.: Hyde, a first-team 3A SSC selection, helped lead the Tornados to a state-qualifying game, while holding opponents in nine regular-season games to a goal or less.
Defender — Kayse Smack, Tumwater, sr.: Led Tumwater’s sturdy defense again as a senior, and was the 2A EvCo defensive player of the year. Opposing teams averaged less than a goal per game, and the T-Birds had 10 regulation shutouts.
Defender — Dallas Trusty, Elma, sr.: Was the 1A Evergreen Conference’s defensive MVP, and led a defense that allowed one goal per game, and had five shutouts in the regular season.
Goalkeeper — Carly Becker, Olympia, sr.: Averaged seven saves per game, and posted six shutouts in Olympia’s first season in the 4A SPSL. Was a first-team 4A SPSL selection.
Forwards: Alicia Hook, Elma, sr.; Megan Lowe, Black Hills, jr.; Noni Pickard, River Ridge, sr.; Rilee Stillings, Tumwater, soph.; Brooke Sutherby, Elma, soph.
Midfielders: Peyton Elliott, Elma, sr.; Ashley Joubert, Timberline, fr.; Mikayla Kee, Tumwater, sr.
Defenders: Jewel Bender, Black Hills, sr.; Paige Murray, Capital, jr.; Sierra Snyder, Tumwater, sr.; Jadynne Thomas, River Ridge, jr.; Julia Wojnar, Black Hills, jr.
Goalkeepers: Devin Herbert, Black Hills, fr.; Cassie Mullins, Tumwater, fr.
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