Thomas Jefferson soccer coach Josh Hauck would not say it directly, but his Raiders needed a match like this one.
Through its first two matches of the season, Jefferson girls soccer beat its opponents by a combined score of 13-3 and did not lack confidence.
The Raiders faced their first major test of the season Tuesday in a 3-3 draw against Auburn Riverside at Thomas Jefferson High School.
It was a match that forced the Raiders to come from behind throughout the 80 minutes, something they have not had to do since their playoff loss to Puyallup in November.
“We’ve only played two [other] games so far, and we were pretty comfortable in those,” Hauck said. “But through the first half of this one, we just couldn’t seem to get anything going, and I’ve never seen this team play like that.”
Through the first 40 minutes, Jefferson (2-0-1) spent most of the time chasing the Auburn Riverside (3-1-1) counter attack. The Raiders fell behind 1-0 in the early stages of the match.
But in her third consecutive three-goal game of the season sophomore captain Hailey Still made it 1-1 just minutes later.
The Ravens continued to use their speed on the counter attack, though, and went back out in front and took a 2-1 lead into halftime.
“Going into the break, the reality was, I really didn’t know where or what to start with in terms of adjustments,” Hauck said. “I just knew we needed to be first to the ball, be more physical and just possess the ball.”
The Raiders have a name for the second half of games. They call it “the business half.”
It means that by the time the second half gets underway, Jefferson should have a balanced grasp on both the technical and mental aspect of the game it is in.
By halftime, Hauck and his three captains, Still, Michelle Kim and Aliyah Ramil, knew the Raiders weren’t taking care of business.
“I think we’re definitely still in the stages of building chemistry,” Kim said. “These younger players have so much potential, I think it’s just about figuring out how we all play well together.”
Hauck got a glimpse of that chemistry and how far it has come, during halftime.
Before the Raiders took the pitch for the second half, they came together for a quick exchange. The captains asked their teammates one question: How bad do we want this?
The captains wanted to know if the entire roster would come together as a team and respond or simply let Auburn Riverside run right past them.
Hauck stayed behind. He decided not to interfere with what became a players-only meeting because, in that moment, he watched his team execute something they talked about in the pre-season: taking control of early-season games.
“I really thought that moment was the difference between the first half and the second half,” Hauck said. “They were able to fight back and fight for each other.”
While the Raiders have a variety of upper and underclassmen on the roster, they are still trying to find ways to incorporate the skills of all 11 starters and reserves.
Through the first three games of the season, Jefferson has experienced what Hauck referred to as “The Hailey [Still] Show.”
Through the Raiders’ first two games, Still scored three goals in each game. The draw with Riverside was no different. She had all three goals in this game, too.
If Jefferson is going to make its annual postseason appearance, the Raiders know they have to create other scoring options and opportunities to compliment Still.
“Hailey is our star,” Kim said. “There’s no question. But not a lot of people know about Cindy [Roberts]. She’s been really impressive this year with her technicality and speed. Last year she seemed a little scared and timid as a freshman, but she’s so much more confident on the ball, and that’s been key.”
Jefferson did not have a great deal of confidence between the touch lines against the Ravens.
It was a good experience, though. The back-and-forth with Auburn Riverside was something Hauck and the Raiders needed to see this early in the season.
“This was a good test for us,” Kim said. “Auburn Riverside is a good team. They forced us out of our rhythm early, but it was so good to see us come back from this and fight. A game like this one should only make us stronger.”