Squalicum’s girls’ soccer team was behind for the first time all season, Burlington-Edison had the Storm on the ropes. Then sophomore forward Payton Fowler stepped off the bench.
“Everyone was frantic,” Fowler said in a phone interview. “It was the first time we had been down all season.”
Minutes later, Fowler found the net for the eighth time in her young varsity career, tying the game up. Squalicum went on to win 2-1 and Fowler had gained a valuable experience — one that might pay off Friday, Nov. 21, against Ephrata in the Class 2A state semifinal at Shoreline Stadium.
“I felt like I made a contribution,” Fowler said. “I gave us hope again.”
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Fowler is Squalicum’s third-leading scorer, tallying 12 goals and four assists. She also has three goals in the playoffs in her first year on varsity.
Most of that has been coming off the bench.
She doesn’t mind coming off the bench though and that’s what makes her such an important asset to the team, Squalicum coach David Kish said in a phone interview.
“You have three girls that are older than her and are all good in their own right,” Kish said. “She sometimes starts, she sometimes doesn’t. But no matter what, she’s always dangerous.”
Starting is not something Fowler takes for granted. She’s never been the best player in her age group and at one point, she wasn’t even in the top 40 or so.
In her first year trying out for Whatcom Rangers FC, she was cut.
“That’s definitely when my mentality toward soccer changed,” Fowler said. “I started working harder toward everything. I knew it was not going to be handed to me at that point.”
She made the second team on the Rangers the next three years, before finally making the first team this season. Fowler appreciates that she didn’t naturally have talent, but had to work at it and admits she still works at improving every day.
And she listens to what others have to offer her.
“She’s extremely coachable,” Kish said. “ You tell her something once and she’ll go do it every time.”
So instead of wallowing in the fact that she plays behind the Kim’s (Dorr and Hazlett), Fowler has relished it.
Actually, she’s done more than that — she’s taken things from the upperclassmen’s respective styles of play
“Their intensity,” Fowler said of what she’s learned most from her elder teammates. “They almost strive to score off every play. So just putting intensity toward every single play and having the determination to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Even though Fowler wasn’t around for the two previous semifinals, she still has the chance to make a huge impact in this year’s final four contest.
“Some teams rely on only one player. Payton’s done a nice job scoring some big goals,” Kish said. “It’s nice having that much talent coming off the bench.”
It’s also been nice for the team’s intensity in practice sessions. It takes several high-level athletes competing against each other to get better, Kish said
While Fowler is grateful she’s able to play with some of the best and even went as far as to say “it’s amazing playing with them,” Kish realizes Fowler is also one pushing the program forward.
Come Friday, all that intensity and high quality practice sessions will give the Storm a chance to flourish on the field and Fowler’s looking forward to it.
“It’s definitely an amazing experience. Being a sophomore and my first year on varsity, it’s just a cool experience,” Fowler said. “I think it’s going to make us all better players.”
It’s all about improving for Fowler and she’s determined to not only do well in Friday’s contest, but get back to state next year.