Sehome outside midfielder Hanna Tarleton is easy to spot on the soccer field. She's the girl running endline to endline on the left outside, blowing past defenders with her long strides and state-track speed.
She played forward her freshman season, but as a sophomore Mariners coach Andria Fountain decided it was a disservice to Tarleton's athletic ability to keep her up top.
"The outside midfield position is a position where you have to be incredibly fit," Fountain said in a phone interview. "You have to run up and down, and she has those natural abilities."
Frankly, Tarleton has the ability to play just about anywhere on the field. She admitted she's played every position during her soccer career. An outside midfield role, though, allows her to contribute both offensively and defensively. That's just how Tarleton likes it.
"I like being able to be back and check for those balls on defense," Tarleton said. "I don't feel safe just sitting up top the whole time. I love having some space down the line and being able to beat players (on the attack). If I'm at forward, it's different; I don't feel like I perform as well. I like being able to get back and help."
Fountain believes her senior mid is naturally gifted, but she credits much of Tarleton's athletic prowess to the work she's done during offseason training.
"Hanna has a really good work ethic," Fountain said. "She works extremely hard, training year around. She takes her natural abilities, but she works for what she's got. She's always in the weight room putting in extra time to get in good physical shape. No one can outrun her."
Well, one person can. Tarleton placed second in the 300-meter hurdles during the 4A-3A-2A Washington State Track and Field Championships last spring. She helped Sehome set a new 2A record in the 4x200 meter relay, and also contributed to the Mariners' second-place 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
"I think (my improvements) have a lot to do with my track and just the speed I have built up," Tarleton said. "I don't think I had that as a freshman, and I think that's how I can contribute to this team - being able to make those runs and get those balls in."
Fountain said she wasn't sure if Tarleton liked the move to outside mid two years ago. The Sehome senior has certainly embraced it now.
"Earlier this year I was talking about who will play forward," Fountain explained. "One girl said Hanna, because she used to play forward. Hanna said, 'No, I'm better at outside.' I think she has kind of come into what I saw for her. She had all the physical ability to embrace the position, and she's worked hard."
Tarleton scored seven goals last year, ranking fourth on a Mariners club loaded with talent. She also added three assists.
Now that Jessica Bertucci and Madison Heilmann, who together accounted for 34 of Sehome's 78 goals in 2011, are graduated, Tarleton will undoubtedly be counted on to step up into an even larger role.
She won't be going at it alone.
"I think all four captains (Rachel Albert, Teya Mischaikov, Emily Russell and Tarleton) bring something different," Tarleton said. "We have four, which is a lot. We all know how each other works, and we all bring different things as leaders, and I think that is what is going to bring our team together."
Juniors Marie Kochman, Alia Jones and Ashley Mindnich, as well as sophomore Kate Peterson, are expected to fill the scoring void Bertucci and Heilmann left up top.
"It will be interesting to see how some of the newer players will do, because a couple of our forwards are just on the team this year," Tarleton said. "It will be interesting to see who steps up, because we'll have to make up for those goals, but we'll figure it out."
It's hard to say the Mariners had a disappointing season in 2011. Sehome lost 3-2 to Cedarcrest in the 2A state quarters, but after winning it all in 2010, anything less seemed like a letdown.
Fountain said her club has forgotten the sting of that mid-November loss. Tarleton agreed, but she said she wants to ensure her Sehome career doesn't end with a sour taste in her mouth.
"It was hard to work for a whole season and end with that game," Tarleton said. "It was really difficult to leave a season like that. ... We just want to perform well and not end our season on a game we aren't proud of. We want to go out there and do Sehome well and prove we're still a power out there."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.