Prep Soccer: Pirates Poised for Another Deep Run on the Pitch
Off the Wall: Payton Aselton Will Once Again Headline an Adna Team with High Aspirations
By Jordan Nailon
ADNA — Ask nearly any prep soccer team in the land if they’d be content bringing home a state trophy year after year and the answer is most assuredly going to be a resounding “Yes!”
The same is not necessarily true for the Adna Pirates. While labeling the Adna girls soccer team as malcontents is at least a step too far, there is no doubt that the Pirates are clamoring to upgrade the booty in their trophy case this season. That’s just what happens when you’re a perennial title contender with a frustrating habit of stumbling in the state semifinals.
To wit, the Pirates brought home a third place trophy last season after winning the Central 2B League in undefeated fashion. The year before Adna settled for fourth place at state. And the three years before that? Those were a trilogy of third place finishes in the state tournament.
After dropping the district title game to Kalama last season, and then dropping the state semifinal game to those same pesky Chinooks later on, the Pirates were ultimately able to defeat Liberty Bell 3-0 in the third place game. With those two losses as the only blemishes on their 2018 season Adna coach Juli Aselton has been able to identify a few key lessons learned.
“It’s just knowing that even if there is a team that might not be as strong as us that’s a time to work on what we’re going to do against other teams. It’s not just a time to fly by and get to the goal. We still need to work on our basics,” explained Aselton.
This year the Pirates are boasting their best turnout in years as they try to get over the hump and into the state championship game. With 37 girls out for the first week of practice Adna will have two full teams this year (varsity and JV), whereas last year they were forced to swing a few players back and forth between the varsity and junior varsity units.
“They are all working really hard. They know they have to fight for positions this year and so far they’ve been pretty open to that,” said Aselton. “A lot of our freshman last year came up and they are doing a great job of filling spots.”
Indeed, Adna will need new players to rise to the occasion in order to help replace some of the stalwarts from last year’s roster who have since graduated. Aselton says that Olivia Rodriguez is right at the top of the list of players who will be difficult to replace.
“Olivia was a great center defender last year. She was solid and being that she was on our defense for four years it’s trying to build that confidence back up,” Aselton said. “We have a lot of good defenders it’s just finding who’s most comfortable on the wing, who’s most comfortable center D, and who just kind of meshes.”
Luckily for the Pirates they also return a mob of experienced players who can help the new crew earn their sea legs. Aselton says that returners like Brynn Arrington will be essential to help solidify the defense due to their on-field skills and ability to relate with her teammates.
“They are always good about helping the other girls,” Aselton noted. “That’s what’s great. You get this many girls and you think it’s going to be hard to communicate but everyone’s got their group and their niche and everyone is helping everyone else learn. That’s really helpful because I feel like I have 20 coaches.”
Not to be lost in the shuffle is the fact that the Pirates also return Payton Aselton to the fold for her senior year. Last year Aselton was voted offensive MVP of the Central 2B League while also sharing her second consecutive All-Area MVP award with Brieanna Dell of Tenino. In 2018 Payton Aselton scored 22 goals on just 87 shots while distributing 16 assists from her midfield position. That output included nine game-winning goals.
Coach Aselton expects that her squad of experienced players won’t miss a beat this year.
“It’s going to be a lot of the same girls as last year. When you’re talking goalkeepers Makaela (Meister) has been fantastic. And then you’ve got Payton, who on the field is a great distributor. She knows how to start wall passes and has a tough kick,” Aselton said. “Of course Cierra (Swenson) is great up front and Brynn on the defense. She’s great at talking with the younger players and being that support system and being our cleanup so if something does get by she’s there to help.”
Aselton added that Jordyn Swenson will also figure in to the heart of the Pirates defense this year. She said that the senior has looked great in the preseason thus far.
While the Pirates know where they’d like to be at the end of the season they are not spending time whiling away the early season by staring longingly into the horizon. Instead they are buckling down and focusing on the finer details they hope will help deliver them to their preferred destination.
“Yes we would like to win the league but first we have to get through the beginning parts. And again it can’t be ‘Oh we’re just going to take off because we have speed and we’re going to go around them and shoot.’ They have techniques against us, these other schools. They know how to pack the box so that we can’t shoot. It’s what can we do differently to find those opportunities to score whatever formations those other teams try to do,” Aselton said. “I think it’s important having some variety because it seems like we do a super good job and then we get to districts and girls are sore or tired and we need players who are ready to step in.”
One big change this season is the addition of a slate of non-league games for the Pirates due to changes in the Central 2B League such as Ilwaco adding a team. Last year each C2BL team played 16 straight league games from start to finish but Aselton expects to see the same old teams near the top of the standings.
“Kalama, of course is always tough. They’ve lost some kids too but they always seem to pick up some younger ones who have some skills,” Aselton said. “Of course Onalaska, they didn’t lose a lot and they had some younger players who made a difference for them last year. They’ve come a long way and that’s going to be a tough game.”
There are a couple of other teams that Aselton will be sure to have her team prepared for as well.
“Life Christian you just never know. It depends on which girls move into their district or, they’re a private school so they can come up with girls we’ve never seen before,” she explained. “And Toledo, they’ve had a big group of girls this year and they played some rec this summer so they got some time on the field, too.”
The Pirates will use their new non-league opportunities to get out and test themselves this year with early contests against Aberdeen (2A) and Walla Walla (4A). They will also head to Sunset Stadium in Sumner, where the state Final Four are held, in order to get some time on the turf against Cascade Christian (1A).
“It is a big change. It’s kind of nice to be able to practice and throw in some non-league games because last year we had no non-league games so we couldn’t practice,” Aselton noted.
The Walla Walla game, set to be played in Yakima on Sept. 7, is one that Aselton is particularly excited for as she scans the schedule.
“They beat us pretty handily a couple years back when we were a little bit younger but we’re doing it again because nothing says you have to work harder than playing a 4A school,” Aselton explained. “We want to be able to learn and compete and figure out how are we working things around a harder team. And we want those younger players to be able to say, ‘Oh, okay, this isn’t a cake walk.’”
Adna will play in a jamboree at Centralia’s Tiger Stadium on Sept. 5. Their first home game is slated for Sept. 18 against Life Christian.
2018 Record: 19-2, C2BL Champions
2018 Playoff Finish: Defeated Liberty Bell 3-0 in state 3rd place game
Coach: Juli Aselton
Players to Watch: Payton Aselton (MF), Makaela Meister (GK), Cierra Swenson (F), Jordyn Swenson (D), Brynn Arrington (D)
Games to Watch: Oct. 2 vs. Onalaska, Oct. 9 vs. Toledo, Oct. 21 vs. Kalama