Lakewood girls off to fast start

LAKEWOOD – After winning both games in a jamboree against bigger schools last week, the perennial underdog Lakewood High School girls soccer team showed it could turn some heads this season.

LHS continued its early success with a 6-1 win over La Conner Tuesday at home. The victory was highlighted by a hat trick from Cougar junior striker Cassidy O’Hara.

So, they have already won three games, matching their victories for the entire season last year.

Coach Nick Anderson said he was impressed with his team in the jamboree, beating Marysville Getchell and Cascade high schools.

“The Lakewood girls have a lot of soccer savvy and what I call high soccer IQ,” he said. “They know the game, the plays, and that’s setting them up for success.”

O’Hara scored on a free kick in the first game to win 1-0 against MG. In their second game, freshman right forward Iliana Ramirez scored with a shot from 20 yards out that hugged the upper right corner of the goal, beating Cascade 1-0.

“We didn’t go in expecting to win these games; they are quality higher-division teams,” said Anderson, who this year added coaching the girls soccer team to the boys squad he coaches in the spring. “The girls scrapped, they were winning fifty-fifty balls, and playing with a sense of confidence.”

Senior co-captains Faith Dahl, center midfielder and Bailey Dixon, center back, are setting that tone of confidence for the team through their leadership and commitment.

“It’s so cool to start off with three wins, and it has inspired us to keep it going,” Dahl said.

Dixon agreed. In the past the team has been viewed as underdogs by the rest of the league – 2A, 3A and 4A. “I have a feeling the season is going to go really well.”

Dixon added that 75 percent of the team are returning players, and that cohesiveness and familiarity will bode well as the season unfolds.

The scoring machine O’Hara has been a huge spark out of the gate, pushing the team’s energy high, and she’s glad to be contributing.

Describing her hat trick, she said “Iliana got it into the middle and set me up to tap in the first goal. After that first goal, I felt we were on a roll. Everyone was hustling a lot, and the plays started opening up.”

Anderson said the duo of Ramirez attacking from the wing to feed O’Hara down the center is a matchup he hopes will give defenses fits.

Goalkeeper Hailey Kohler has had plenty of success to start, also, with two shutouts and only giving up one goal in three games. She holds the school record with an average 7.88 saves per game. The junior would love to break the shutout mark this year.

A big change in the vibe this year was on display Tuesday’ when the girls kicked off their Cougar Buddies program, walking out hand in hand with elementary school players at the start of the game, just like the pro teams do. They ran a soccer camp with 80 Lakewood kids this summer, and the players said they enjoyed the mentoring that went with it.

Even with last year’s ho-hum record, they grabbed the final spot in the first-round division playoff, but lost.

Their goal is to get a higher seed at districts this year and make a run in what has been a competitive division. Anderson said unlike last year’s playoffs with three state berths, this year there will be four.

“It’s a new school, a new season, and it’s all falling into place,” O’Hara said.

“We have nothing to lose,” Kohler said.

“We’re leaving it all on the field,” O’Hara added.

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