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Updated Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 09:31 PM

Knee injuries test Issaquah's resilience | Soccer Notebook

By Matt Massey
Special to The Seattle Times

Everything seemed to be lining up for the Issaquah High School girls soccer team to make a run at the school's fourth state title.

The Eagles, ranked No. 5 in Class 4A, were starting to play their best soccer. Issaquah (18-2-1) is unbeaten in seven consecutive matches entering Friday's state semifinal matchup against Camas (16-3-1) at 8 p.m. at Sparks Stadium.

But a 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Central Valley of Spokane was costly. Issaquah lost its two best players to knee injuries.

Midway through the first half, down went senior midfielder Audrey Thomas, the team's playmaker and strategist, with an apparent MCL sprain. Then, in the 50th minute, junior Rachel Wheeler went out with a likely torn ACL.

"We lost our two best players," said Issaquah coach Tom Bunnell, whose team has outscored playoff opponents 12-2. "Rachel is done for the year, but we're not sure about Audrey. Having watched us, you can imagine what that meant.

"We'll figure it and it will work. We'll make adjustments. Those two players are huge for us. We've played without them before."

Thomas, the KingCo 4A MVP for the second year in a row, has 16 goals and 11 assists. Wheeler, who has committed to play for Kentucky, has 10 goals and 12 assists.

"Whoever plays in those positions, will be great," Bunnell said. "They will work super hard and do the job."

Bunnell said Thomas would be a game-time decision Friday.

"For us, it's as easily an undefeated season as it is a two-loss, one-tie season," Bunnell said. "In the playoff games, we dominated people."

The Eagles' state titles came in 3A in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Goalkeeper Tala Fry has 11 shutouts this season for Issaquah, and the Eagles' chances could depend on their defense.

They meet again

Skyline and Tahoma are meeting in the 4A semifinals for the third year in a row.

In 2010, Skyline was ranked No. 1 in the nation and Tahoma delivered a 1-0 shocker. The Spartans got payback with a 2-0 win last year.

Skyline (15-1-3) won it all in 2008, 2009 and 2011, and that semifinal loss in 2010 might have prevented the Spartans from winning four titles in a row.

"Tahoma's just one of the best teams in the nation," said Skyline coach Don Braman, who lost starter Rachel Shim to a ACL injury against Union of Vancouver in the first round. "They are a strong side and have got some really talented players. They seem every bit the 20-0 team that they are.

"I'm fully expecting a huge battle."

Top-ranked Tahoma (20-0-0) is ranked No. 7 nationally.

Hooks back

Brie Hooks sat at her laptop in Boca Raton, Fla., hotel room last year, watching her Tahoma teammates compete in the semifinals.

More than 3,000 miles away, she felt helpless.

Hooks was showcasing her skills at an Olympic Development Program Thanksgiving Interregional Event.

At this time a year ago, it was a critical time for exposure to college coaches for Hooks. But now that she's committed to play for Colorado, the senior midfielder is 100 percent a Tahoma Bear this season.

"It was such a hard to decision to leave during the state finals," said Hooks, a dynamic playmaker. "Coach (Jason) Johnson and I had discussed it for weeks and it did not feel right, but I knew I needed to do it for my future. I hadn't committed to play in college at that point."Last year was the first year I was invited to the Interregional camp, so needed to go there to prove myself."

Hooks wouldn't feel right missing another chance at a title.

"I feel so guilty about it," she said. "I felt like I was letting the team down. I don't miss a game for anything. I just don't usually don't do that. It sucked watching the game on my laptop from the hotel.

"It sucked just watching them and not being able to be there with them or for them in that (semifinal) game."

The Bears fell 2-0 in the 2011 semifinals to Skyline before rallying for a 2-1 win in two overtimes against Gig Harbor for third place.

Cougar trifecta?

Having already won the Metro League tournament title and a state academic award, Holy Names has turned its attention to winning a state title.

"I keep telling them we can win the triple," said coach Teddy Mitalas.

The Cougars, who have a team grade-point average of 3.85, will receive the Class 3A state academic award this weekend.

Of 10 seniors on the roster, six are committed to playing college soccer.

Leading the list of senior commits is forward Katie Chandler, who will attend Washington University, a challenging Division III school in St. Louis. Also playing in college are midfielders Julia Hawn (Colorado School of Mines), Katelyn Faust (Claremont College), McKenzie Oliger (Claremont College), defender Angela Fisher (Pacific Lutheran University) and goalkeeper Kayla Baskett (Evergreen State College).

Notes

• Liberty seniors have endured coaching changes in each of their four seasons. That hasn't stopped the Patriots, who qualified for state each of the last three seasons. They reached the 3A title match last year before falling to defending champion Seattle Prep 3-2. Liberty is back in the semifinals under first-year coach Tami Nguyen.

• Second-ranked West Valley of Yakima (20-0-0) enters its 2A semifinal matchup with No. 6 Sehome (19-1-1) with seven shutouts in a row and 15 overall.



Audrey Thomas might still play Friday.




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