High School Sports

At home on a soccer field, Olympia defender Landrey McCann is a team leader as a sophomore

Olympia High School defender Landrey McCann nails a header during practice on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.
Olympia High School defender Landrey McCann nails a header during practice on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. sbloom@theolympian

When Landrey McCann arrived for her freshman soccer season at Olympia High School last fall, she didn’t know if she’d even make the varsity squad.

“I didn’t have any expectations,” she said. “I knew I was a lot smaller (5-foot-3) than most of the opponents we’d be going against. There were a lot of challenges.”

But, coach Tamara Liska and her staff saw “a happy kid who worked hard and had great vision for what’s happening on the field. She can read other players body language. She’s technically sound.”

Into the lineup McCann went, at a crucial defender spot tasked with communicating with midfielders and forwards.

“It was a huge shock to be given the opportunity to be on the field as much as I was,” McCann said.

It was those bigger opponents, all those 5-7, 5-8 and taller girls up front for opponents in the tough 4A SPSL who got the bigger shock. McCann made enough of her opportunity to be named second-team all-league and first-team Olympian All-Area in 2017.

Paired with senior Chloe Gentry, she gives the Bears a back line that’s helped hold opponents to only a single goal in their first two games.

Maybe no one should have been surprised at McCann’s success, given how she looks at a soccer field.

“When I step across that line, I’m where my whole heart and life are,” she said. “It’s like my second home. I let go of everything else.”

McCann began playing at age 5 on a recreation league team called the Thunder Dogs coached by her father Jayme. By seventh grade, she knew the sport was where she belonged.

“I saw the high school games, started going to the Otown (Future Stars) camps,” she said. “I wanted to do everything so I could play well in high school.”

She began working out with a personal trainer three days a week and eventually joined the Black Hills Football Club’s travel teams. When she got to Olympia, Liska found a player who was ready.

“She has a great presence and personality,” the Bears’ third-year coach said. “I’m really proud of the way she handled being put into a leadership role on defense as a freshman.”

At first, McCann, who hopes to one day go into nursing or work in special education, had trouble balancing soccer and the new academic challenge of high school courses.

“It was all happening at once. It was so exciting,” she remembered.

Ultimately, things started to fall into place.

“I’m in a leadership role, so I stand out, but mostly I’m a team player and the girls we had were so welcoming,” McCann said. “My teammates are my family.”

The Bears have opened with two decisive nonleague wins over Wilson, 7-0, and crosstown rival Capital, 4-1. Games against Black Hills and Tumwater remain this week before 4A SPSL play begins Sept. 18 at South Kitsap.

By contrast, Olympia finished 3-11-2 last season, losing its first six games and not winning until edging Curtis, 2-1, on Oct. 12. McCann calls 2018 a “redemption season” for the Bears.

She gave Olympia a hint that things might be turning a corner when the Bears attended team camp at Washington State University, Liska’s alma mater, over the summer. Out of nearly 200 girls, McCann was named the Camper of the Week.

“That was so good,” she said. “I put in a lot of work that week. I felt like we learned our team can go a lot of places this season.”

McCann wants to play at the four-year university level and knows some schools are interested, though their contact with sophomores is limited by NCAA rule.

Liska believes her strong performance in Pullman is a hint she will likely reach her goal.

“The WSU coaches knew who she was from her coming with us to camp the summer before,” Liska said. “She made the most of an opportunity to become a better player. I’m excited to see what she’ll do this year and in the future.”