Chloe Sholtz paid her dues. A lot of dues.
As the Central Valley girls soccer team prepares to defend its state Class 4A championship in an 8 p.m. semifinal game with Gig Harbor Friday, the senior goalkeeper has finally earned her chance to shine.
For three seasons, Sholtz was the ready and able backup to four-year starter Jessie Kunz-Pfeiffer.
There were games where she was called upon when Kunz-Pfeiffer was injured. She performed admirably, then returned to the bench.
Being a key backup is no easy task. You have to stay ready to go, ready to ride to the rescue if a teammate goes down and carry the banner forward. And, at the same time, you must sit and wait. Doing both simultaneously takes a special kind of player.
“I didn’t really have a problem waiting my turn,” Sholtz said. “Jessie was better than I was. But I had the chance to practice with all these great players every day and learn from them.
“And I was still starting for my club team, so I was still getting playing time.”
She watched as Kunz-Pfeiffer backstopped the Lady Bears into the state Class 4A championship game and had her finest moment – stopping a crucial penalty shot in a shootout that clinched a 3-2 win over Issaquah.
When a four-year starter graduates, people will wonder who will step in to fill the large shoes of the departed.
That wasn’t the case at CV. When the season started, coach Andres Monrroy pointed to only one player: Sholtz. She’d waited patiently for the chance to play, he explained, and she was going to start.
But starting this season has been a bigger challenge than any year in the history of CV girls soccer. This year, the Lady Bears were the defending state champions.
“It’s like we’ve had a great big target painted on our backs all year long,” Sholtz said. “Our league has been tougher this year than I ever remember it being. Everybody was fired up to play us.”
It hasn’t been easy, but the results have been admirable.
The Lady Bears have posted a dozen shutouts this season. Opponents have scored more than a solitary goal against them only twice including a stunning, 2-0 loss to Mead in the district championship game
Since the loss to Mead at districts, Sholtz and her defense shut out University and Mead in loser-out matches to reach the state tournament. In the first round, the Bears crushed Snohomish 6-1 and blanked West Valley-Yakima 1-0.
“Our defense is incredible – I love playing behind them,” Sholtz said. “It’s different being the starter than coming in as a backup. Because I can see the whole field, our coach wants me to help direct the defense. So I’m yelling at them a lot, pointing out where the ball needs to go and where the other team is setting up.”
Thus far in two state games, Sholtz’s biggest challenge has been to stay warm. Every other teammate on the field can stay warm by running. Goalkeepers, by definition, have to stay in goal.
“Staying warm and loose is a definite challenge,” she said. “You just have to put a lot of it out of your mind, you can keep moving, stretching and doing jumping jacks, but it’s really more of a mental challenge. I wear layers and layers underneath my uniform and try to stay as warm as I can.”
Before every game, Sholtz and her coaches sit down and work out a game plan for each opponent. Friday’s game with Gig Harbor is no different than any other game: There will be a plan laid out for how to get the most out of the CV defense.
Playing on artificial turf for these last two games is a plus, Sholtz said.
“It helps a lot,” she said. “For one, the turf is frozen the way grass is. For another, it’s an even surface. Frozen grass is uneven and the ball can bounce real funny. And it’s fast and that helps our team.”
The season is already down to one final weekend, two last games.
“That doesn’t feel right – I’m not ready to be done playing with these girls,” she said. “I’m trying to not think about it right now.”
Sholtz is also not thinking about college and her soccer-playing future, either. Those plans already have been made.
“I’m going to play soccer at Northwest Nazarene next year,” she said, pleased at the prospect. “I’m excited about it – excited to know that I will be able to keep playing.”
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