In their past two seasons, the Squalicum High School girls varsity soccer team has been undefeated. They have won two consecutive state championships, a giant accomplishment for the local school. But this year, there were changes in store for the team. Jose Rodriguez has replaced David Kish as head coach, the school itself has switched from 2A to 3A, and many key players have graduated.
Despite the adjustments, the team is optimistic for the remainder of the season. After saying goodbye to many teammates in June, they’ve welcomed some new arrivals, and are getting used to the changed landscape. “It’s different,” acknowledges senior Amanda Wells, “but we’re learning to mesh really well together and play as a team.” Playing as a team is something that Coach Rodriguez also emphasizes. One of the most important things he says is, “everybody knowing what their role is on the team,” and he adds that they have been working on figuring out the identity of the new team.
Each year, the seniors set goals for the team in the form of three words. This year they have chosen determination, dedication and desire to be the foundation of their identity. There is a shed next to the field that the girls practice on and they have painted on it their three words for the season. Surrounding the words are the handprints of the players. A symbolic signature, the handprints signify each student’s promise to uphold the values of the team. At the beginning of the season the Varsity, JV, and C teams all gathered to paint the shed and leave their handprints.
One of the biggest challenges facing the team is the recent shift in Squalicum High School’s ranking from a 2A school to a 3A school. With the change in rank comes a change in the teams that the girls will be playing. “We don’t know them very well. We don’t play them,” says Rodriguez of the switch. It is harder to prepare for games when the coach and players aren’t sure of what they are up against.
The new opponents are out of the comfort zone of the Squalicum team, but Rodriguez is confident that he and the team are, “taking care of the things that we are supposed to do.” He puts the emphasis on what they can control rather than what they can’t. “It gets to the point where you just do what you have to do and you let the other things figure themselves out,” he says. His philosophy seems to be working well. The team is currently ranked second in the North West Conference, with just one loss and two ties.
As for the new coach, Rodriguez says he is not planning on changing the way he coaches now that he has moved from JV to Varsity. “I wasn’t going to try and do something different than I had done before. I wasn’t going to try and be a different coach,” he says. Instead, he is working on combining “what has worked in the past” under Kish, the previous head coach, with his personal coaching style. He describes his methods as “laid back,” explaining that he prefers to let the players discover what works and what doesn’t on their own. He also says he tries to give most of his feedback one on one after a player comes off the field, rather than giving too much direction during gameplay.
Squalicum also has JV and C teams, and Rodriguez says his favorite part of the season so far has been, “watching all three teams play.” Sophomore and C-team player Truc Tran described the team as one that she, “can count on and be good friends with.” She also mentioned that the soccer team as a whole will always, “work very hard to overcome challenges,” which is something Rodriguez also admires in the team, saying that they, “keep fighting until the very end.” He talks about games where Squalicum has been down in the beginning and managed to come out on top by the end of the game. When asked if there was anything he was looking forward to, Rodriguez said he was excited to, “keep seeing the growth in all of our teams.”