Patience was a virtue Sehome's Hannah Lauffer was forced to adopt.
It was by no fault of her own that she arrived at Sehome simply at the wrong time. Rachel Albert, who now attends Western Washington University on a basketball scholarship, presided in front of the net for the better part of four years while Lauffer stood, supporting each one of her teammate's many accomplishments.
Albert was the All-Northwest Conference Defensive MVP last season after recording 14 shutouts and pushing Sehome to the Class 2A championship game before they fell 1-0 to Sumner.
Lauffer looked on knowing her senior season held her long-awaited opportunity.
"Rachel is amazing, so I was just waiting for her to do her thing and graduate so (that) I could play," Lauffer said, adding that the two had grown quite close over their three years playing together.
In spite of the graduation of one of the best goal tenders Whatcom County has ever seen, Sehome lost little with Lauffer in net this season. The Mariners (10-2-2, Northwest Conference 9-1-1) sit one point behind first-place Squalicum for the top spot in the NWC standings.
Despite being confronted with the foreign situation of not starting, Lauffer never complained, Sehome coach Andria Fountain said. Instead, she was "all the perfect things that a coach wants."
It was a test, and Lauffer took it in stride.
"It was kind of weird watching the game instead of playing in the game," Lauffer said, "... but I just accepted it."
After years of waiting, Lauffer finally got her first varsity start against Ferndale to open the season.
Although the trot out to her respective goal was one she made more than 100 times at various levels of the game, this one was different.
"It was just an adrenaline rush," she said. "I knew Rachel had a past of being a really good goal keeper. ... I just wanted to keep that momentum."
Her first start resulted in a 2-1 loss, but the fact remained: She was the unquestioned starting keeper for Sehome. And that, Fountain said, was never in question entering fall training.
"I was like, 'This kid has put four years into this program. Come hell or high water, she is playing,'" Fountain recalled.
Lauffer's play thus far has only reaffirmed the confidence her coach had in her before the start of the season, as she has accounted for four shutouts while holding opposing teams to 1.29 goals per game.
Her talent was never the question. She had demonstrated time and again that if not for Albert, she would have long ago been named the starting keeper. If there were any concern, though, it stemmed from Lauffer's quiet nature.
"I don't know if I heard her say two words her whole freshman year," Fountain said.
Heightening the need for a strong presence in goal is the fact that Sehome is starting an entirely new defense this year. While Lauffer has grown in her role, directing the line what she sees fit, Fountain hasn't asked her to change. The coach merely asks Lauffer do as she does best, which is lead by example.
"I have gotten louder throughout the years," Lauffer said. "You have to be loud on the field, and you have to tell the players what to do."
For as quiet and reserved as Lauffer is, her play speaks boldly.
In an matchup with Blaine on Oct. 10, a Borderite forward broke through Sehome's back line and had a one-on-one opportunity against Lauffer. As has become so typical with the senior keeper, she abandoned the confines of her goal and pursued the ball with what some might call a reckless abandon. The two met in a collision, and Lauffer emerged with the ball and the save.
"I ran up to her, and I dove for it and she kept running, and she kicked me in the head," Lauffer recalled. "I saved it, and then it hurt really bad. ... I love being aggressive."
In each game, Lauffer has found herself in similar one-on-one situations, Fountain said.
"That is what Hannah does," Fountain said. "She just pops right back up, and if she is hurt, you wouldn't know it."
When the Class 2A Bi-District Tournament begins on Saturday, Nov. 2, the senior's presence in net will be even more important.
Luckily for Fountain and the Mariners, Lauffer seems to welcome the one thing that drove her away from the position when she was younger: pressure.
"When I first had PKs in the seventh grade, I (was) almost about to throw up because I was so nervous," she remembered. "It's exciting now."
Funny thing is, she never wanted to play goalie. Now, she never wants to leave it.
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2238.