Hailey Still stands out among the medley of fresh talent and experienced returners on the Thomas Jefferson High School girls soccer team.
The Raiders currently sit in second place of the league, after Tuesday’s 3-3 tie game against Auburn Riverside.
Team captain Still scored her first goal of the night just 13 minutes into the game — an absolute stunner from the right wing of the field, said TJ’s head coach Josh Hauck.
She then went on to score two more goals, individually tallying all of TJ’s goals for the night.
The Thomas Jefferson junior and University of Washington commit is a scoring maniac, Hauck said. And Still herself acknowledges the impressive strength.
So far this season she’s scored 25 goals, closing in on her record of 29 goals from last year. In the Oct. 4 game against Federal Way, Still wracked up six individual goals.
“The school record is 32, and I’m hoping to break that,” she said.
Still has been playing soccer for 12 years and spent the last six playing year-round on the Pacific Northwest Soccer Club.
A natural on the field, her skill caught the eye of UW recruiters early on and Still received a scholarship offer her freshman year.
“I grew up knowing the coaches, doing training sessions with them,” she said, following in her sister’s footsteps as a future Husky. “They’ve been able to watch me grow and develop as a player.”
Still’s success this season, along with that of her teammates, places TJ in the top of the league, but the league championship title is still up in the air.
If Auburn Riverside wins the remaining games, they have a shot at the league championship title, which places Thomas Jefferson in a possible second or third rank by the end of the season.
“Any given time in high school, one team can show up [in talent] and the other one might not,” Still said. “So you have to take it game by game.”
With a current league record of 8-1-1, there are ups and downs for the whole team, she said.
“We can be on the field and get mad at each other for a second,” she said about her teammates. “But in two minutes, three minutes, or after the game, we can come up to each other and it’s like nothing happened.”
It’s been a breath of fresh air to move players around the field in different positions and be able to utilize the talent of the newcomers on the team, Hauck said.
Freshman Octavia Johnson, a winger, has a willingness to take on players then speed right to the goal, Hauck said.
“We’re more of an attacking-minded team,” he said. “We definitely have a lot of players on the defensive line who look to challenge players and go at them. You don’t always get that out of high school athletes.”
Junior Cindy Roberts, previously an outside midfielder, is now a left defender and one of the top defenders in the entire league from an attacking standpoint, Hauck said, while center back and junior captain Danke Blanco-Ramirez dominates the one-on-one tackles.
“There’s been a lot of moments in every game that I’ve been so proud of the effort as a group,” he said. “It’s been in regards to how this team has come together. We’ve got a good group of girls that really care about each other.”
The tight-knit connection between players is fueled by weekly team dinners and the tradition of the POG (Player of the Game) Ball.
After each game, teammates recognize one another for something they did well in the game and that player now holds the mini soccer ball, Hauck said.
“They keep it until the next game, and it’s up to them to decide who the next player of the game will be,” he said. “It’s something that helps groups better connect with each other and I’ve found it’s had a positive impact ever since we started.”
This marks Hauck’s third year coaching the girls team, and will be his fifth year with the boys team in the spring. Up until Thomas Jefferson, Hauck had never coached a girls team before.
“I’ve had some of my favorite players out of all the teams I’ve ever coached, on just some of these [TJHS] groups,” he said.
The success of the team comes down to ability, effort and communication of all players, Hauck said.
“I challenge our athletes as much as I can, I’m going to support them through thick and thin and at the end of the day, I’m going to give them everything I got and I just expect that in return,” Hauck said.
As the Raiders head into the final matches before playoffs, all there is to do is focus on the next practice and put together 80 minutes of hard work each game, Hauck said.
Thomas Jefferson faces Auburn Mountainview at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16.