Olympia High School soccer coach Tamara Liska knows defense.
Liska, who played goalkeeper for Washington State from 1993 to 1998, took a liking to Landrey McCann as a freshman. So much so, she installed McCann as the team’s central defender, and the player responsible for communicating with the back line of the defense, the midfielders and forwards — the whole team, basically.
For two years, McCann has led the Bears’ defense, which has become one of the best in the Class 4A SPSL. For her efforts, the sophomore has been named The Olympian’s All-Area girls soccer player of the year.
How best to describe McCann’s contributions?
“I think she’s more of a rock,” Liska said about the 5-foot-3 McCann, who compensates for what she lacks in height by being fearless.
“I’m a really physical player, so I’m not scared to go in for hard tackles,” McCann said. “Slide tackles are some of my favorite things. For me, I get a rush of energy doing that.”
The first time Liska saw McCann was in the summer of 2017 during school tryouts. Liska said it was obvious early on that McCann had the talent to play at the varsity level.
McCann’s strength immediately stood out. Even though McCann was noticeably shorter, she was able to move others off the ball with ease. Liska said she also came away impressed with McCann’s touch, vision and mental aptitude.
As a 14-year-old freshman, McCann was named to the 4A SPSL second-team and Olympian All-Area first team.
Over the summer, the Bears attended a team camp at WSU, which included nearly 200 girls. It was a week-long camp consisting of training and scrimmages. And, out of everybody who attended the camp, McCann was named the camper of the week.
McCann proceeded to headline a defense that was one of the stingiest in the league during her sophomore campaign. The Bears (10-7-3) allowed just eight goals in 20 matches, recording 12 shutouts in the process, and McCann was named to the 4A SPSL first-team, despite Olympia’s fifth-place finish.
She also helped the Bears to three consecutive postseason wins and a 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict title. The Bears lost, 3-0, to eventual state champion Skyline in the first round of the state playoffs.
Olympia allowed one goal per game on average — in a league that sent four teams to the state playoffs — with McCann leading the defense, and posted eight shutouts.
The most impressive statistic of all might be McCann’s playing time. According to Liska, McCann has only come off the field twice during matches, and both times were injury-related. Liska estimates that McCann has missed four minutes of action the past two seasons.
“I love (center back) because I can see the whole field,” McCann said. “I can be a help to my team. I can be the last line of defense before my keeper. But I can also step out, win balls and carry them up to my forwards.”
McCann started playing soccer as a 6-year-old on a team coached by father, who played striker at Pierce College. McCann dabbled in basketball as well but, ironically enough, she said the ball kept dribbling off her foot. From then on, it was just soccer.
Over the years, McCann played for a variety of local clubs. Puget Sound Slammers — an all-girls academy in Lacey — and Thurston County United were her homes for five years.
She now plays for Black Hills FC outside of the high school season. In addition to playing central defender, McCann said she also lines up at midfield and forward. The goal is to add versatility to her game, and make her more appealing as a college prospect. And that’s the hope for McCann — Division I soccer.
It makes sense that McCann aims to model her game after Julie Ertz, who is a midfielder and defender for the United States women’s national team. Like Ertz, McCann likes to step up and join the attack, while also helping defend.
Even though she’s accomplished a lot in her young career, McCann is fueled by the desire to get better.
“I think what keeps me going is that I know there’s always going to be someone right under you that wants your spot,” McCann said. “So you have to keep working to maintain it. There’s always going to be a player that’s better than you. And the only way that you can be better than them is to keep working and keep training.”