POULSBO — A scar as straight as a ruler’s edge drops down the front of Chelsie O’Neill-Dewing’s right knee.
If that’s the only memento the senior forward wants to carry from last year’s lost season, no one will blame her.
After suffering a torn ACL during last summer’s Viking Cup, O’Neill-Dewing took on a role as jarring as Sir Lawrence Olivier playing Roger Rabbit: she became the team manager.
So, while the rest of the team capitalized on team speed and youth to propel themselves to a one-game playoff appearance, O’Neill-Dewing — a former Olympic Development Program participant — sat on the bench, kept stats, and watched the action on the field instead of participating.
“She was let down,” said teammate Shannon Smalley. “She wanted to play so bad.”
“It’s hard, watching,” O’Neill-Dewing said. “It’s boring to go from nothing but sports in your life to nothing at all.”
But O’Neill-Dewing, who endured three surgeries on her right leg over the last three years, is ready to flex her muscles this year… and so are the rest of the Vikings.
The Vikings return eight starters from last year’s squad, including much of the high-scoring talent that helped blast North Kitsap to the postseason. And if there’s one thing soccer fans can expect from the Vikings, it’s team speed, and plenty of it.
“Everyone on this team is incredibly fast,” said Smalley, who will serve as co-captain with O’Neill-Dewing and will anchor the midfield as center-mid.
Much of that speed can be found in the team’s high-scoring younger players, including sophomores Megan Hyte, Kim Skelly, and Lindsay O’Neill-Dewing, as well as junior Rosie Zadra, who averaged almost a goal a game during the second half of last season.
The midfield and defense will be anchored by veterans such as Smalley and teammates Allie Gillespie, Mariah Hanson, Ashley Davis, and Katy Pryde, while Lacey Cooper will prowl the goalie’s box, a change from last year’s rotation system.
“I think we’ll be very strong this year,” said head coach Teri Ishihara. “The team wants to win league, and go to the playoffs if possible… so far, they seem to mesh really well.”
O’Neill-Dewing seconds the latter notion.
“We’re all really good friends,” she said. “We’re all supportive of each other. In the past there have been cliques, but we decided not to be like that.”
The team begins its season at 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 9, when it hosts Bainbridge Island.
For O’Neill-Dewing, who spent her spring by becoming one of the golf team’s top players, it will be the first time she has played in a Vikings’ soccer uniform for more than a season.
“I’m happy for her,” said Ishihara. “It’s been a frustrating two years.”
Smalley is glad her teammate and co-captain will be back in cleats on Monday — and glad she never left, even when she was the team manager. “She stayed with the team, she didn’t give up on them,” Smalley said — proving that an athlete can make a comeback, even if she never went anywhere.