Skyline mixes laughs with soccer on way to No. 1 national ranking

November 17, 2010

By Mason Kelley

NEW — 9:25 a.m. Nov. 17, 2010

The smell of pizza mixes with the laughter spilling out of Don Braman’s classroom. It seems fit for a party, not a practice.

But that laughter, the ability to live in the moment, continues to drive the Skyline High School girls soccer team.

“I’ve rarely seen a team enjoy laughing together so much, but a team that’s also ready to bring the ultimate level of focus to the game and the practice when it needs to be done,” said Braman, the Spartans’ coach. “They’re certainly a goofy group, but they’re a group that has continued to get better every day.”

The two-time defending Class 4A champions play Tahoma of Maple Valley in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood. Until then, though, the team ranked No. 1 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America will keep laughing.

“They say you practice the way you play, and that’s totally not the same for us,” joked senior defender Brittanee Randle. “We get, maybe, 15 minutes of hard-core focus and, after that, anything goes.”

While laughter is a part of everything the Spartans (18-0) do, Braman finds time to get what he calls “teachable moments” into every practice and film session.

“The best thing about a team is that you can have as much fun as you want, but you know that, when it’s time to play, it’s business time,” Randle said.

The Spartans seem loose this week, but there is an undercurrent of pressure.

“All the expectations of everyone are to be the best, because we’re ranked that way,” said senior forward Michelle Bretl, “but it’s kind of something you have to leave in the back of your mind and think about it every so often, but don’t let it change the way you play.”

Asked to compare this team to his last two championship squads, Braman cited the leadership qualities of his seniors.

“It really suggests that the girls we’ve had in the past have done a great job of leading this group,” he said.

There is no guarantee of another Skyline title. But it’s safe to say the Spartans will enjoy the moment, laughter only interrupted while the ball is in play.

“When we step on the field we have this drive that just comes out,” senior midfielder Madi Barney said.

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