He’s won a state championship, lost in the finals another time, and his girls seem to at least knock on the door almost every year. So he’s not prone to over-excitement.
But he’s pretty fired up this year about two new assistant coaches arriving on the scene: John Newberry, an accomplished goalkeeper specialist, and Nathan Davis, the new physics teacher at WHS who just happened to be the head man at Shorewood last season, coaching the Lady Thunderbirds to a 22-1 season.
Hester was also stoked about 53 girls turning out this season for high school soccer — maybe not the largest number ever but right up there, he said.
“It’s a big number,” Sully said, “biggest in a long time. We have a really strong sophomore class coming in from Timbercrest and Leota. A few juniors turned out who didn’t play last year, for whatever reason, and we return a strong JV group looking for playing time on varsity. It’s gonna be interesting.”
Little is set in stone at this point, but Hester acknowledged some absolute locks, beginning with senior goalie Molly Stinson.
“Our expectation is she’ll be the best in the league,” he said. “Last year she was maybe a little inexperienced at the varsity level but she came in highly touted — plays on a good (select) team up in Snohomish and played great for us. And the fact that she’s getting a personalized coach should really help.”
Stinson, tall, strong and athletic, is a Division I prospect. The “little” sister of former Falcon standout Maggie Stinson will be supported by an outstanding back line including sweeper Brittany Greenback, Chrissy Gonzalez and — perhaps — Christine Horne, who excelled at midfield for two years but asked to play defense her senior season.
“I’m not sold on it yet,” Hester said. “Those three would be a great back line — they’re not gonna be shocked and they know what’s going on — but Horne has the ability to score goals and I have other defenders. A lot depends on who emerges in the middle.”
Hester seems to be sure of junior center half Emily Neubert.
“Even though she’s not a real big girl, she plays a physical game and she’s so darn smart. Makes a lot of good decisions.” He said there were two or three more youngsters playing well there, including sophomore Rachel Schenk.
Hester likes to play a 3-5-2, from back to front, and said they may do that again.
“We have a ton of young kids fighting for those midfield positions. I can’t say at this point one is ahead of another and that will sort itself out soon.”
Up front it starts with senior Sophie Chakalo, who never met a shot she didn’t like and has led the team in goals for two years. Chakalo, with mad offensive skills, is another Division I prospect.
The other striker has yet to be determined.
“Behind Sophie are like six kids that could emerge,” Hester said. “Somebody’s gonna get that job and get to shoot, but I couldn’t tell you who that is right now. But I’ll say this: This sophomore class is remarkable and we’ve got people with good range and ability who will pull the trigger. We’ll have better firepower up front than we did last year, when we were hesitant.”
So what’s the overall vibe?
“These girls just love playing soccer and they really get along together. The young girls, it’s amazing how committed they are. We’re just really excited and the future looks bright.”
Woodinville travels to Lake Washington for a non-league opener Friday, then takes on Bothell next Tuesday at Pop Keeney for another non-leaguer.