Squalicum's Lauren Gibb made her way off Whatcom Community College's Orca Field with a black bag gripped in her right hand.
Holding the bag wasn't what it seemed. It's an honor for the Storm midfielder and team captain to finally grasp it, because it signified her willingness and ability to bear the burden of leading Squalicum's girls' soccer team.
"I think in order to be a leader, you need people to respect you and look up to you," Gibb said. "I think by serving other people, that is one way they respect you."
Squalicum operates under a "servant-leader" philosophy, Gibb said, something the team chose to adopt before the season began. It has a unique hitch to it, though, coach David Kish added, one not often seen in high school athletics.
"Our freshmen don't do any of the work," he said. "On a lot of teams, the seniors tell the freshmen to carry the load, and on our team, our seniors carry the load. Our freshmen don't have anything to do with it."
Squalicum's overarching goal upon instituting this mentality was to make it to the state tournament. It did that, winning its first-round matchup against Hockinson 1-0 on Tuesday, Nov. 12. Now, the Storm prepare to face Fife at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, at Franklin Pierce Stadium in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A State Girls' Soccer Championships, with a trip to the semifinals on the line.
Gibb epitomizes the leader-servant mentality, said Kish, who has spent the better part of his six-year career at Squalicum trying to undo what he called a "toxic" culture that existed before his arrival.
"There were a lot of players as individuals, and not a team," Kish said.
This year is the first since his arrival that he believes the culture is without any of the pollutants that bogged down previous teams and seasons. Gibb, a four-year varsity letterman, has brought with her captaincy an understanding of the need to value the team over the self - serving over taking.
"She's done a great job leading the team and taking that upon herself and kind of being the beacon the rest of us kind of went with," Kish said, "showing us how it is going to be."
Her play on the field in many ways mirrors her mentality, too, as she leads the Northwest Conference with 16 assists. No other player in the conference has more than 10.
Not shockingly, though, Gibb takes little of the credit in terms of facilitating goals for her teammates, including sophomores Kim Hazlett and Kim Dorr, who have scored a combined 35 goals between them this season.
"I'm not about doing it myself," Gibb said. "I can't be successful if the team is not successful."
Kish preaches concise passing. It's a staple of Squalicum soccer, and Gibb's fundamental skills in that respect are an indication of her dedication to the craft, Kish said.
But it all stems off something her father would preach to her when she was younger, over and over again.
"My dad always said practice makes permanent, so if you practice perfect, you'll play perfect," Gibb said. "I just kind of live by that."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
STATE GIRLS' SOCCER
CLASS 2A STATE QUARTERFINALS
? Squalicum at Fife (at Franklin Pierce), 7 p.m.
? Archbishop Murphy at Bellingham (at Civic Stadium), 2 p.m.
CLASS 1A STATE QUARTERFINALS
? Seattle Academy at Meridian (at Civic Stadium), noon