Klahowya’s girls soccer team has had the strongest sports dynasty in recent Kitsap County history — thanks to a lot of the players competing at high-level club programs year-round.
Coach Troy Oelschlager took over the Eagles program in 1997 when Klahowya opened in west Silverdale as a 2A school. In his first decade, the Eagles had their ups and downs — winning the state championship in 1999 but falling short of the playoffs in other seasons.
Before taking the coaching job, Oelschlager dominated on the pitch. He grew up in Kitsap County and played striker for Olympic during the late 1980s. In addition, he played for Kitsap Illusion, one of the first select teams in the county. After high school, Oelschlager hung his cleats and began coaching with a youth team in Tracyton.
When Oelshclager took the job for Klahowya, he struggled to field a team, only having five girls his first season. But since 2008, Klahowya has reached the playoffs every season. Klahowya continued to reach the 2A playoffs until it fell to 1A in 2014 due to declining enrollment. Oelschlager has picked up 294 career wins since 1997. In the Eagles’ first season at 1A, the squad won the state title. Since then, Klahowya has placed as high as third in state in 2018, holding a 150-23-6 record in the 1A Nisqually League.
Plus, from 2012-14, when Klahowya was at its peak, Hilary Crisman committed to Western Washington, Nicole Zygmontowic to the University of Evansville and Izzy Severns, Katlyn Sargent and Jessica Haga to Central Washington.
His teams are known for their defense. Specifically, in 2010, Oelschlager started using a flat back-four scheme, where the two central defenders play side-by-side with the outside defenders, creating a straight line.
Oelschlager said the team’s consistency has been built through the club level. “We have had a pipeline of girls who have played at the highest club level,” he said. “A number of my girls actually play in Puyallup for Washington Premier. Also, Harbor FC is another club they play at.”
Both of those squads are in the Elite Clubs National League, the second-highest youth club level in U.S. soccer. “We have a club player starting at every position. They can compete at 4A, 3A, 2A or 1A,” he said.
ECNL clubs compete in tournaments in Washington, Oregon and California. It’s quite an investment. Washington Premier charges between $1,800-$2,500 per season while Harbor FC is between $950-$2,400.
Oelschlager’s team looks to repeat its success this season after outscoring opponents 117-6 last year, finishing 19-1-1 in the regular season and placing third at state. Klahowya has already proved to be a wrecking force this season, winning its debut 7-0 over Bellevue Christian.
He said his 2022 squad has more depth than in previous years. “Any time you got the entire team coming back with that much experience, that is just going to lead to good things,” Oelschlager said. “Even though we lost two strong starters, the other nine starters are coming back.”
Out of all the returners, three stand out as two-way players: midfielders Alisa Divano and Victoria Peters, along with forward Amira Lyons. They are able to dominate on both sides of the ball. Goalie Ella Bottalico stands out too, averaging 0.1 goals per game against her last season.
Oelschlager said the team has just one weakness. “What we need the most is competition,” he said. “We are trying to pick up some games where we play some teams that can give us a game that is challenging.”
Klahowya’s game against South Kitsap, a much larger 4A school, was canceled. In addition, the Eagles’ only other tougher opponents came in a jamboree before the official season began. In the jamboree, Klahowya tied 3A Central Kitsap 0-0 and beat 2A Olympic 3-0 in 20-minute games.
With no challenging opponents on the schedule anytime soon, Oelschlager tells his team it must challenge itself to get better. “Hopefully we use our training sessions as a challenge to each other,” he said. “I always tell them that they are their best opponent. A lot of teams won’t be able to challenge them as much as they challenge each other in practice.”
If the team continues to improve, Oelschlager believes they can bring home another state title to Klahowya. “We should hopefully find ourselves playing on that final weekend again,” he said. “Anything can happen when you are playing on that final weekend.”