By Rick Lewis
For 17 seasons, the Liberty Bell High School girls’ soccer teams have been building a rich tradition of winning on the field and in the classroom, which they are poised and ready to continue this year.
In the past 10 years, the Lady Lions have made regular trips to the WIAA state tournament, earning final four berths three of the past four years and establishing themselves as the premier 1B/2B class program in eastern Washington.
Add to the success on the field their six WIAA academic state titles in the past 10 years, the past three consecutively, and one finds a recipe for success that places Liberty Bell among the state soccer elite, regardless of classification.
Coach Lincoln Post, now in his fourth year at the helm, is high on this year’s squad, despite the departure of four key players to graduation. While filling those spots might prove problematic, some 20 young women, led by a strong senior class, look to again make the state final four and bring home some hardware. Post will be assisted by Katie Overbeck and volunteers Daniel Ochoa and Paul Niccolazzo.
Post really believes this squad has that potential. Experience is the key factor, as well as an advantage for his charges. He recognizes that the competition at the final four level is tough.
Indeed, other coaches at the state tournament are surprised when they learn that Liberty Bell doesn’t have any players participating in club or “elite” teams in the high school off-season. Instead, Post looks toward his team’s defensive play, tournament experience, teamwork and camaraderie as key factors in Liberty Bell’s success.
“A strong team ethic can beat a team with premier players,” Post said, referring to how his girls play, interact and care about each other.
Returning this year are some hungry players who have been to the final four twice recently and have lofty ambitions. Senior goalkeeper Lauren Ochoa looks to be the vocal leader on the field, constantly barking out directions, calling the defense and shouting encouragement from her station protecting the front of the Liberty Bell net. She smiles confidently when asked about this team’s potential. “I think we can win the whole thing,” she said. Her desire to succeed is matched only by her confidence in her team, with a realization that they have been there and know what it takes to move up the ladder.
Joining Ochoa are a number of veterans who have been playing together for years. Hailey and Anna Post, Stella Gunnip-Hunter and Cece Odell all are back for their senior year, joined by incoming senior Carlynn Treise. The underclasses are also infused with quality players including “legacy players” sophomore Tommy Ochoa and incoming freshman Julia Dietz, who both are following the Lady Lions’ family tradition.
Treise is a three-sport athlete who has found a home on the pitch, settling in and transferring her experience on the basketball floor to the grass. According to coach Post, she is a quick study, having not previously played soccer at the high school level. In their first practice, “I pulled her aside and told her this was just like basketball,” he said. “If you have the ball, find someone open and get it to them. If you don’t have the ball, get open and get ready.”
The coach said it all clicked in at that moment for Treise. “She is going to be a significant contributor. She is a very good athlete,” Post said.
For her part, Treise says she really enjoys the soccer experience. “It’s outside in the fresh air, lots of exercise and the team environment is wonderful,” she said.
It’s that environment, and experience, that Post hopes will again carry the Mountain Lions to the lofty heights of state soccer success this year.
Early home action for Liberty Bell includes a match versus Okanogan on Tuesday (Sept. 5) at 4 p.m.; Sept. 16 against Lake Roosevelt; Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. versus Omak; and 4 p.m. on Sept. 26 when the Lady Lions entertain Manson.