Five years ago, Meridian senior Abbi Rautenberg had never played goalie. Now she's leading the Trojans into the Class 1A State Tournament quarterfinals.
She's steadily improved each season during her four years on varsity. This year, 11 of the Trojans' 12 wins have been by shutout. That's two more than she compiled in 2011. Between Rautenberg's freshman and sophomore seasons, she recorded three.
"My first year coaching, I don't even know if we had any shutouts. We got scored on all the time," said Meridian coach Andrea Ames, who began coaching the Trojans three years ago, in a phone interview. "She has the attitude that good is not good enough and that she can always be doing better."
Twenty-four goals allowed in 22 games is pretty good - so is 11 shutouts.
Rautenberg and her teammates will look to improve when it faces King's at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at King's High School with a chance to advance to the state semis up for the taking. Meridian lost to the Shoreline-based school 2-0 in a Class 2A Northwest District semifinal game two weeks ago.
"I think we know we can play with them," Rautenberg said in a phone interview. "We just need to be very aggressive and keep that up and play more aggressive than them the whole game."
A tested goal keeper like Rautenberg will certainly be beneficial.
Ames said while her keeper has made improvements in on-field communication, the way she uses her hands and her ability to read attacking offenses, Rautenberg's even-keeled attitude may be most important Friday.
In fact, Ames doesn't think her keeper hardly remembers giving up two goals to King's on October 24. At least she hasn't acted or played like she does.
"She doesn't get too worked up or too excited about something," Ames said of Rautenberg. "She is really solid all the time, and her play is constant. That's always good to have in a big pressure game."
Rautenberg and Meridian's stingy defense has already proved its ability to rebound well from a tough loss.
The Trojans gave up 13 goals in their final four games - all losses - to end the regular season after giving up just five goals in the first eight matches of the year.
Meridian recovered, allowing only three goals in the Trojans' six postseason matches. Four of Meridian's five playoff wins have been shutouts.
"I just think we are playing really well," Rautenberg said. "Once we hit districts, it was kind of like, 'Oh my gosh, we have gotten this far, we can actually get to state.' I guess that was just motivation for everyone."
She's also adds to Meridian's defensive veteran presence. Including Rautenberg, Meridian has four seniors on defense and one junior. The fact most of them played varsity as freshman has created an extremely cohesive group. Add in Rautenberg's improved communication and it's no wonder opponents have found scoring on Meridian to be tough - especially of late.
"It's nice because we all work really well together," said Rautenberg on playing with a number of the same players for four years. "We know where everyone is and where everyone else has to be. It makes it so we don't have to communicate quite as much."
Rautenberg exhibited her developments as a keeper early during Meridian's 4-0 win against Elma in the first round of the Class 1A State Tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 7, in Aberdeen.
Early in the match, before Ames said the Trojans began clicking, their was a defensive lapse and Rautenberg found herself in a one-on-one situation with an Elma forward. Rautenberg made the stop, and Meridian rolled from there.
"She makes a lot of saves and has made some in one-on-ones for us," Ames said. "You know, in one-on-ones, if you don't score, it's kind of on the (offensive) player. She's gotten a lot better at coming off her line and anticipating where the shot is going to be in the air. She's had a lot of nice saves this year where she tips the ball over the crossbar."
Also a standout on the basketball court, Ames believes the hardwood is where her keeper has developed her quick hands. Rautenberg said she could see a slight connection between her skills as a goalie and a wing player for coach Don McMains.
"Sometimes you use the foot skills in basketball moving back and forth," Rautenberg said.
Not only on the field has Rautenberg's presence been valuable. She filled in as a team captain while normal captain, senior defender Kelsea Clark, was out a month after sustaining a concussion.
"The team chose her to fill in," Ames said. "She is more of a quiet leader, but she works really hard in practice and does little things for the team. She is the last person to ever say anything negative. I have never heard a negative comment come out her mouth. She is just the kind of person that is really well liked."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
CLASS 1A STATE SOCCER QUARTERFINALS
MERIDIAN AT KING'S
When: 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9
Site: King's High School in Shoreline
On the line: Class 1A State Tournament semifinal berth
No. Player Yr. Pos.
1 Abbi Rautenberg Sr. GK
2 Kelsea Clark Sr. D
3 Lexi McKinnon So. F
6 Kendra Holmes Jr. M
7 Anna Pimento So. M/F
9 Gladys Galiano Sr. M/F
10 Emily Schwisow So. D/M
11 Janessa Murphy So. M/F
12 Haley Belanger Jr. F
13 Leyla Marino Sr. D
14 Madie Holz So. D/M
15 Taylor Lunde Jr. M/F
16 Mackenzie Briones So. M
17 Trinell Carpenter Sr. D
19 Candace Sturtevant Jr. M
20 Haley Sandberg So. D
22 Karissa Culley Jr. D
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.