Squalicum midfielder Julia DeVere believes in a certain phrase every time she steps onto the soccer field. She learned early in her career: "the bigger they are, the harder they fall."
Those are words to live by for a 5-foot-2 sophomore battling much larger, stronger opponents on a regular basis.
Kish said DeVere has two traits that outmatch size and strength. Co-Captain Lauren Wallace repeats them every match before the Storm take the field.
What DeVere lacks in size, she makes up for with tenacity and heart.
"We have a small team in general, but her heart and physicality don't match her size," said Kish of DeVere. "She has great touch and great control with the ball, especially in the center of the field. She will never give up on a ball and never back down. She also has a really good shot from outside."
Squalicum (18-1-1) hopes DeVere's abilities are on full display when it faces Hockinson in the Class 2A State Tournament quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Civic Stadium.
DeVere's play has been paramount to the Storm's success. She bridges Squalicum's back line and forwards. Her three goals and seven assists proves she's a force in the attack and, during the postseason, DeVere has been asked to mark opponents' top midfielders or forwards.
Kish thinks DeVere is the top midfielder in the Northwest Conference for those reasons.
"We have a joke on our team that she is the assist to the assist," Kish said. "If soccer was like hockey and counted both passes, she would probably lead the league. She helped shut down Archbishop Murphy (in the Northwest District semifinal) and, we didn't ask her to, but she man-marked during the Sehome (Northwest District title) game."
Her work in shutting down Sehome's high-powered attack helped Squalicum claim its first Northwest District title in program history and home-field advantage during the first two rounds of state.
"It's been crazy," DeVere said in a phone interview. "State has been our dream for so long. I'm only a sophomore, but I've captured the essence of how much this team wants this."
DeVere said she'd choose to be an attacking midfielder if it were up to her. Feeling the pressure of preventing goals isn't her favorite, though she admits it's rewarding when her team does. And Squalicum has a lot this year, posting 13 shutouts with a goals against average of 0.40. Mostly, she wants to do what benefits her team most.
She has the bumps and bruises after matches to prove it.
"She has a lot of heart and desire," Kish said. "I want that on my team and, regardless of her size, her ability to lead by example has been huge for us. She sacrifices her body and wants to win at all cost."
DeVere logged plenty of minutes as a freshman. Last year allowed her to make the proper adjustments to the varsity level and undoubtedly prepared her for defending top 2A players in the league, district and state.
"It's definitely really intimidating, but I feel like it's kind of up to me how I'm going to approach it," DeVere said. "The girl may be one of the best in the state or conference, but I have to look at myself and picture myself like I'm one of the top players out there and think that I'm just as good as her. That helps with my own confidence."
Having other midfielders like Gracie Slater, Lizzy Herda and longtime teammate and friend Michelle Saunders also helps put DeVere's mind at ease.
She estimated her and Saunders have played together for five years between the Storm, WFC Rangers and recreational league soccer. DeVere said her soccer relationship with Herda goes back to when they played on a fifth- and sixth-grade Whatcom Developmental League team.
"Michelle Saunders and (DeVere) have played together for a number of years," Kish said. "Michelle is a little better in the air, but both are really strong, hard-working players who work really well together. It's one of those things where if one of them wins the ball, the other one is immediately there to help move the ball up the field."
Not only has DeVere's ability to play multiple midfield roles benefitted the area of the field she's working in, Kish has been able to insert players into positions better suited for them due to the sophomore's flexibility.
Kish moved Slater into an attacking position since DeVere's move to a defensive role. The junior scored during Squalicum's 2-1 state-clinching win against Archbishop Murphy and added a goal and an assist during the Storm's 6-0 state opening-round win against Fife.
DeVere and Kish hope the team clicks like it did against Fife when it faces Hockinson. DeVere said if the Storm play like they've been, she thinks Squalicum has a great chance to clinch a state final four berth.
"We need to come out with the same tenacity we had against Fife," DeVere said. "Tenacity and heart - that's what it is going to come down to."
DeVere has added motivation to keep Squalicum's season going. She wants to keep playing for all the Storm's seniors, but there's one in particular: her sister - all-conference defender and co-captain Andrea DeVere.
"I really want people to understand the relationship I have with my sister and how important it has been to have this experience together," Julia said. "We're doing this for her and the other seniors. We are so close. She is my best friend, and I really hope we can go all the way for her."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
CLASS 2A STATE SOCCER QUARTERFINALS
HOCKINSON AT SQUALICUM
When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10
Site: Civic Stadium
On the line: Class 2A State Tournament semifinal berth
No. Player Yr. Pos.
1 Kim Hazlett Fr. F
2 Julia DeVere So. M
3 Lauren Wallace Sr. D
4 Jackie Dierdorff So. D
5 Leigha Schelderup Sr. M
6 Andrea DeVere Sr. M
7 Michelle Saunders So. M
8 Zoe Peterson Sr. F
9 Gracie Slater Jr. F
10 Lauren Gibb Jr. M
12 Sarah Byron So. F
13 Payton McNally So. D
14 Rachel Dorr Fr. D
15 Lizzy Herda Jr. M
16 Kim Dorr Fr. M
17 Summer Allen Sr. D
19 Shelby Spooner So. GK
61 Lauren Eckert Jr. GK
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.