Returners boost King’s hopes for another state title | Girls soccer

Three seniors lead strong sophomore class
By David Pan | Sep 13, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan King’s senior Callie Wright attempts a shot during practice at Woolsey Stadium.

King’s surprised a lot of people, including themselves, by winning the school’s first 1A state girls soccer championship last year.

The Knights won’t be able to sneak up on the opposition this season, especially since the majority of their key players are back.

“For the most part, the team is the same as it was last year,” senior captain/defender Emma Culberson said. “I think that will really help us to have a good start this season because we know each other very well. We know how each other plays. We’re already very connected. … We know how hard we have to work going forward again this year.”

King’s won a state title with a young squad and the Knights will try to defend their title with an older but still young team.

Culbertson, forward Callie Wright and midfielder Sarah Nielsen are the only seniors on the roster.

Six freshmen who played important roles for the Knights now are sophomores with a year of experience playing varsity soccer. Returning goalkeeper Grace Roberts leads a five-member junior class.

Talent was just part of the puzzle that King’s needed to win the state title. Team chemistry and hard work also were integral parts of the championship run.

“We spent a lot of time trying to make sure that the team was connected,” Culberson said. “It was a close knit team. We just knew that we weren’t maybe the fastest team or the oldest, but we worked hard. So that ultimately got us to that state championship.”

The Knights learned how to overcome obstacles during their title run. King’s lost three of their first four games and had to rally from a 2-0 deficit in the district championship game.

The players agree that the turning point of the season was coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Archbishop Murphy 4-2 in the second-to-last regular season game.

“At that moment we realized we can do this,” Culberson said.

Wright and Nielsen already sees some parallels between this year and last year.

“We’re closer than ever,” Wright said. “So I definitely think we can go far this season and be a successful team. I think we want it even more than we did last year.”

Nielsen agrees.

“Everyone on this team is hardworking and loves the game,” she said. “We’re all willing to work for each other. I’m excited to see what the season has in store.”

King’s coach Nicole Gabelein noted that having almost the entire roster back is helping the Knights progress quickly.

“I’ve already seen it come together really fast,” she said. “I’m seeing things that were a struggle last year – all of a sudden. Bam. We talk about it. They can do it.”

The Knights haven’t had much of a discussion, if at all, about the pressure they will face in attempting to defend their state title.

“I don’t think we’re going to let that get to us,” Wright said. “We want another state championship. Who doesn’t? So we’re going to work as hard as we can.”

Gabelein stresses to her players that while they can appreciate the past they should focus on the future.

“We mark every step,” she said. “We take baby steps to get where we want to go. … I’m real excited about this team going forward.

“We don’t want to forget the championship. We don’t want to. We’ll remember. We’ll have the memories as a group. We’ll enjoy the memories. But we also will work toward what is ahead of us.”

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