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30 years of North Kitsap High School girls soccer
POULSBO — The North Kitsap High School girls soccer team did not spring up overnight.
For three years, until 1981, Craig Smith attended North Kitsap School Board meetings, rallying for the board to adopt a girls soccer program. Finally, instead of delaying the vote for two weeks, the board adopted the program into the district.
North Kitsap High School was the last large public high school to adopt a girls soccer program.
Smith was studying at Evergreen State College for his teaching certificate. While coaching at a soccer camp, he received a call from NKHS principal George Pugh, asking him to coach the girls team he had rallied for so long.
“He told me to put the money where my mouth was,” Smith said laughing.
Because of the delayed decision to adopt the program, the girls soccer team began practicing late in the summer.
Soccer was still a fairly new sport for the area, Smith said. Youth soccer programs began forming a few years before and the team borrowed equipment from the other programs. The Vikings did not have an official place to practice, instead using any open field, such as the old elementary school field — now Gateway Christian School.
The team’s first game of its first season ended in a 1-1 tie against Peninsula. The Vikings finished the 1981 season with a 6-3-1 record.
Smith’s philosophy for the team: “You want to build from the defense to create a strong offense,” he said in the Sept. 16, 1981 edition of the Kitsap County Herald.
Now coaching the girls team at Kingston High School, he said his coaching philosophy “has not changed a bit.”
Smith’s Vikings took second in the league behind Bainbridge High School during its 1981 inaugural season. In 1982, the Vikings tied for first in league. In 1983, the team won the league title.
Poulsbo resident Rhonda Byers, who was a freshman when the program started, said Bainbridge Island was always the team rival. Byers was one of 22 players on the team during its first year.
Because there was no high school soccer team, Byers said most of the players knew each other from club soccer, which quickly boosted the team’s competitive levels.
“We meshed well as a team,” Byers said. “We just had a lot of fun.”
Byers, who graduated in 1985, sent two daughters — Sydney and Siera — through the program. She said the team helped them become more assertive and take leadership roles on the field.
Thinking back, Byers said one of the things she remembers the most is Smith not allowing the players to participate in the powderpuff football game during homecoming celebrations. Nevertheless, she said the team always had fun.
“We always had that great rival with Bainbridge Island,” she said. “We traded wins and losses.”
In all, the Vikings have won 15 league titles (1982-86, 1989-96, 1998, 2009) and placed in State three times (1998, 2008, 2010).
After Smith resigned as coach, Tim Burns took over for more than 10 years. Teri Ishihara became coach after Burns.
Nicole Funk, currently the assistant coach for the team, played for Burns and Ishihara (1997-99). During her junior year, Ishihara took the Vikings to its first state tournament in program history.
“It was a pretty big deal,” Funk said.
The Vikings were supported not only by their community, but other schools as well. Funk said students and players from other teams were there to show support.
Now in her sixth year as assistant coach, Funk said the program’s focus on team building has created a positive atmosphere. Like the team when she was a varsity player, the team comes out focused and ready to win, she said.
“We have a lot of really good, hardworking players,” she said.
When Funk rejoined the team after college, Dee Taylor was coaching the Vikings. Taylor, who worked with the team for four years — three as head coach — helped bring the team back to the top of the league, Funk said.
Taylor said coaching the Viking athletes was easy.
While he was coach, the overall grade point average was about 3.4. This meant he did not have to worry about eligibility. Because the students live in a semi-remote area and many played in club sports, making the team was important, he said.
“Part of it was being at the right place at the right time,” he said.
During Taylor’s stint as coach, North Kitsap High School was reclassified as a 2A school, shrinking after Kingston High School was built. This brought the girls soccer team from playing 3A schools, such as Bainbridge Island High School, to the smaller schools in the Olympic League.
Because of the redistricting, the team’s success increased.
“And success breads success,” Taylor said.
An increase in participation in youth soccer programs has added to all the teams in the North Kitsap School District, as well. The number of parents who are involved is also on the rise.
As coach, Taylor said he tried to make soccer more than a game. The team continues in bonding exercises and events, such as the Halloween tournament.
“The last speech I gave during the awards presentation (at the end of the 2010-11 season), I said, ‘Anyone who gets to coach the team is really lucky,’ ” he said.
Now in the postseason, Chris May took the helm as coach for 2011-12. May now coaches the boys and girls teams at NKHS, and assisted in coaching the girls team with Taylor.
The Vikings ended their 30th regular season 5-1-1. The team goes on to play in the sub-district tournament Nov. 2.