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Sports Year in Review 2017

  • Written by Derek Johnson
As the year comes to a close, Woodinville can say it made its mark in the sporting world. The Falcons brought home two State Championships and very nearly a third. So many games, dramatic moments and memories.
 
But for me, the sports year started a tad early, in December 2016. It was not your typical Woodinville basketball game. Outside, the temperature was 70 degrees. Inside the gym, the majority of fans wore shorts and t-shirts. The mood was laid-back and relaxed.
 
DSC 8621The Lady Falcons celebrate their win over Bothell last February. (Photo by Derek Johnson) The setting was Phoenix, Arizona. The event was the 20th Annual Nike Tournament of Champions. The Woodinville girls basketball team was down there for a four-day tournament. Teams from around the country competed. 
 
By happenstance, I was staying in Tempe. After a day of watching my niece Sidney Hollibaugh figure skate, and then taking vicious, undisciplined hacks with a three-iron at Top Golf, I capped off my day by coming to watch the Lady Falcons. Actually, I watched all four of their games. 
 
Woodinville won three in a row before falling in the championship title to Sacramento.
 
It was a harbinger of things to come. A couple months later in February, the Falcons came of age and knocked off the powerhouse Bothell Cougars 52-48 in the KingCo 4A championship game. In so doing, Woodinville supplanted their rivals as rulers of the conference.
 
“We’ve worked so many years to get here,” Woodinville forward Alena Coomar said afterward. “So many years we’ve played Bothell and we’ve gotten close but haven’t beaten them. And it feels awesome that our hard work finally paid off.” 
 
“Obviously there is a lot of exhilaration in beating a really talented, well-coached team with two high level players,” Woodinville coach Scott Bullock said. “There’s nothing sweeter for a group of kids to come together and feel like they beat a team that is maybe a little bit more talented than them because they played as a team. We have a quote that we love to share: `if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’”
 
Woodinville would make it to the Tacoma Dome, before falling to Bellarmine Prep.
 
DSC 8345Woodinville coach Kathie Koch gives her gymnast Kylie Mosset a hug after a great performance. (Photo by Derek Johnson) But that wasn’t the only team making noise in the winter season. The Falcon gymnastics team had won three consecutive State Championships, and were poised for a fourth.
 
Woodinville went undefeated and got to the Tacoma Dome. But then adversity struck on Friday morning at the Tacoma hotel where the Lady Falcons were staying. Kylie Mosset awoke to see teammate Paige Hirata curled up in the corner.  
 
“We were like, `Paige what’s the matter?’” Mosset said. “Paige is someone who is always pushing through, always finding the positives, never feeling down. It took her fifteen minutes to [acknowledge] she had been throwing up and feeling sick. But she said, “I’ll be fine. I’ll be okay.”
 
“Paige is a really tough kid,” Woodinville coach Kathie Koch said. “We tease Paige, because her standard line is `I’m fine.’ She could be bleeding or injured and she’ll say she’s fine. So when she finally said she wasn’t fine, that meant she was really sick and could not do it.”
 
So Woodinville switched to Plan B, and arrived at the Exhibition Hall with the battle cry of “Do this one for Paige!”
 
Despite the absence of Hirata, the Woodinville gymnastics team went on to capture its fourth straight Class 4A State Championship.
 
Kat Rudd, Kate Norris and Morgann Mochermann stepped in  as  alternates and helped the Falcons to a score of 180.225, topping second-place Camas who had 175.425.
Woodinville senior Alli McManus beat out Mount Rainier freshman Karissa Saelee for the all-around title with a score of 38.0-37.95.
 
“We knew the point spread would be a lot closer since we lost one of our top kids,” said Woodinville coach Kathie Koch.
 
DSC 9454The Rhinehart twins, Lauryn (left) and Taylor (right) capped off remarkable prep careers with a State Championship. (Photo by Derek Johnson) As Spring came and the weather warmed up around Woodinville, thoughts turned to outdoor sports. The Woodinville Falcons softball team ran roughshod through their schedule to finish 26-0 and become State Champions.  
 
The Lady Falcons led Kingco 4A in everything: Wins, runs, shutouts, laughter, good times and a love of life that was hurricane force.
 
They received more media exposure than ever before. USA Today ranked them #3 in their nationwide Super 25 Poll. KOMO-TV and KING-TV produced features on the team. The Seattle Times brought regional attention to this storied program. And coach Dani Tachell (formerly Weir) was named National Coach of the Year.
 
“I’m feeling overwhelming pride for this group,” Tachell said. “It hasn’t just been a goal for a year, it has been a goal for the past four years. Just seeing them gut it out and finally get the reward in the last part of their careers, makes me really proud.”
 
One of the season’s great stories was Taylor Rhinehart. The oft-injured senior had a spectacular final season for the Falcons. She was named Kingco 4A Player of the Year. And she turned in the greatest pitching performance in Woodinville fastpitch history, when the Falcons beat Richland 7-0 in the Tri-Cities. Rhinehart not only threw a no-hitter but also struck out 19 batters, setting a new school record.    
 
DSC 0852Darth Vader leads the Falcons onto the field late in the 2017 season. (Photo by Derek Johnson) After a tinderbox summer, that itch for football was in the air. The season kicked off September 1 on a picture perfect evening at Pop Keeney Stadium.
 
Woodinville and Bothell squared off and the stands were filled to capacity. And the Falcons came out like gangbusters, blasting Bothell 36-14. Woodinville was fundamentally sound in all phases of the game. But the earmark of this win came courtesy of its “Dark Side” Defense, which shut down Bothell’s ballyhooed quarterback Jacob Sirmon, a UW commit. Sirmon was hassled all night long, completing 8 of 29 passes for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bothell managed just 150 total yards and a paltry 25% conversion rate on third down.
 
“The key was being able to stop the run and not letting [Sirmon] get comfortable,” Woodinville coach Wayne Maxwell said. “For the most part we did that. We had to replace Jake Kim, the all-time Woodinville sack leader, and we had to see how the guys were going to step up. Our kids did a great job tonight.”
 
Three months later, in a locker room at Art Crate Field in Spanaway, the Falcons were joyous as could be. They’d just defeated Sumner 10-0 to earn a berth to the Gridiron
Championship in the Tacoma Dome.   
 
“You dream about this since you were a little kid,” Falcon quarterback Jaden Sheffey said. “You go through all the hard work. It’s really an incredible moment. We’ve all been crying and don’t have anything left. It’s a great feeling.”
 
A week later, the effort to bring a third State Championship home to Woodinville fell just short. The Falcons fell behind to Richland, rallied to come back, but succumbed 28-21. They finished the remarkable season at 13-1.
 
“A lot of emotion, you know?” Woodinville coach Wayne Maxwell said as he stood on the Tacoma Dome field with daughter Addison at his side. “These guys are great kids. They do everything the coaches ask. We work them hard... I told them in the final huddle that they’re winners. They believed in each other. They never turned their backs on each other. They came out and fought their hearts out. It’s just a sign of what they’ve done this year. They’re going to win in life. I’m unbelievably proud of these guys.”
 
And so... As I write this article, it’s the afternoon of December 19th. The winter sports season is underway. Lots of things to look forward to. Later this evening, I’ll be getting my first look at the Woodinville boys basketball team under first-year coach Kurt Melton. They’ll be playing Mount Si.
 
DSC 8297Falcon wrestler Emilio Arroyo looking intense. (Photo by Derek Johnson) The wrestling team has some promising young talent, led by the likes of Emilio Arroyo and Drew Christensen. The boys swim team is led by senior Jonas Loeser and has young talent like freshmen Soren Gordon and Timothy Walsh and sophomore Jeffrey Numrych.
 
The girls basketball team looks to contend again for the Kingo 4A title. And the gymnastics team appears as dynamic as ever with stars like Kylie Mosset and Ellie Mann.
 
With the holidays upon us, I’m given to fits of gratitude. So I’ll take a moment to single out some people I’ve enjoyed getting to know and watch compete. Newcomer coaches Andrea Roelen (volleyball), George Sayah (swim and dive), Jimmy Holladay (boys soccer) and Andrew Croft (girls soccer) have all been a pleasure to work with. I enjoy all the WHS coaches to varying degrees, but ones like Scott Bullock (girls basketball), Sam Moscatel (girls basketball), Dani Tachell (softball), Wayne Maxwell (football) and Mike Monan (football) I consider friends as well as professional acquaintances.
 
As for administrators, I give a tip of the cap to Renae Hector for always being so helpful. And to Deb in the ticket booth who always gives a friendly greeting as I make my way into the gymnasium on those dark, winter nights.
 
And I’ll name a few athletes now I’ve enjoyed covering, with the knowledge that I’m going to leave out names that merit mentioning. But the list includes Nash Fouch, Jaden Sheffey, Cade Beresford, Noah Tapplett, Dylan Usoro, Ali McManus, Paige Hirata, Paco Becerra, Takeshi Kubota, Eric Yang, Abigail Burhmann, Makenna “Mackie B” Barton, Dustin Lind, Karoline Wucherer, Olivia Riener, Lauryn and Taylor Rhinehart, Derek Hamer, Chris Wilson, Regan Schenck, Madison Lundquist, Alena Coomar, Nikki Zaback and Maddy Dubois (and the 147 different ways I’ve misspelled her name over the past three years. Sorry, Maddy.).
 
Sometimes when you see so much bad news on TV you wonder about society’s future. But then I think about these great kids at Woodinville and I know that there’s hope. Yes, that’s a corny sentiment – but it’s the truth.   
    
Happy holidays to everyone and here’s to a great 2018.

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