Liberty eyes return to 3A state title game

September 6, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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The Liberty High School girls soccer team came so close to victory in last year’s 3A state championship game.

At one point, the Patriots led the contest, 2-0. But ultimately, the team fell to an experienced Seattle Prep squad, 3-2.

As the Patriots embark on a new season with first-year coach Tami Nguyen, they appreciate the lessons they learned from that game, but they won’t be dwelling on the past this year.

“The game’s not over until the whistle blows,” senior captain Kiana Hafferty said. “We just have to keep playing the whole 90 minutes and not get too ahead of ourselves.”

Nguyen said that last year’s success guarantees nothing for the 2012 squad, so the team prefers to focus on the present.

“We are not talking a lot about last year,” Nguyen said. “We’re just starting from scratch and getting after it that way. It’s definitely a goal — we want to be up there at the end of the year playing our best soccer, but we are not really talking about last season.”

Nguyen comes to Liberty after a successful career coaching and playing at the collegiate level. The Liberty coach played soccer at the University of Washington, helping the Huskies capture the Pacific-10 Conference championship in 2000. Nguyen also spent time as an assistant coach with both Portland State University and the University of Washington.

The transition to a new coach has been easy for the squad, Liberty forward Kailiana Johnson said. Nguyen has experience working with many of the Patriot players from her time coaching club soccer.

“We kind of know her from club soccer and she’s a great coach,” Johnson said. “She’s going to help us out in any way she can and help us get to that state final again.”

Making a second-straight appearance in the state championship game is the ultimate goal for the Patriots, but the squad is just taking it one game at a time.

“I think it’s just a step-by-step process. We have to start with winning KingCo again and then making it through the playoffs, until we get to the final,” said Hafferty, one of the team’s midfielders. “But ultimately, our main goal is to win state.”

Nguyen said the Patriots seems well-rounded this year, with scoring weapons in Johnson and junior Kali Youngdahl, as well as a strong back four, filled with four returning defenders.

“We have six seniors that are returning,” Nguyen said. “The spots that we did lose with graduating seniors, I think that we filled them with quality players. It’s a very, very strong group and super fun to coach.”

Johnson said the team is focused on improving its defense this season and the squad has looked strong in the first few weeks of practice.

“We’re going to work a lot harder on defense, to help us not get scored on this year,” she said. “Our main focus is to work on shutouts.”

Both Johnson and Hafferty are seniors this year and they intend to end their high-school careers on a high note.

“It’s the last time we will play with some of our best friends, so we just want to end it on a good note,” Hafferty said.

“Especially with Tami as our coach, it’s just an honor and the best thing, in my opinion, would be winning with her,” Johnson said. “It would just be the perfect end of a high-school career.”

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