The future looks bright for Cougar Soccer
The newcomers of the Washington State soccer team may just be freshmen, but their wide range of experience has brought them onto this squad with all sorts of various expertise.
Freshmen defender Reese Tappan, defender Khalia Gathright and goalkeeper Nadia Cooper have covered the spectrum in terms of pre-college soccer experiences.
Individually, the trio have played on a state championship high school team, a national championship club team, and the youth US National team. Despite the differences on their journey to becoming a Coug, all three have made equally as big of an impact on the start of this young season.
Tappan attended Liberty High School in Renton, Washington, where she was a two-time state champion and two-time all-league selection. The Newcastle-native credits her state championships and high school coach for who she is as a player today.
"Being able to come in and start as a freshman was an amazing experience," Tappan said. "I was taught by an amazing coach, Tami [Nguyen]; she grew me so much as a player."
One of the biggest takeaways from her time at the high school level was learning how to respect the older players, while also learning from them at the same time, Tappan said.
"Being on varsity as a freshman I definitely learned how to listen and do what I'm told," Tappan said. "Coming in here that has helped me know my roll and what I need to do right away."
Gathright, from Cypress, California, played for the SoCal Blue, which is one of the best club teams in the nation. She led the team to winning the U16 national championship in 2019, the year after leading them to the national semifinals.
Gathright's national championship in 2019 helped her learn how to come together as a team and play for others besides herself, which has transferred over to how she approaches her current team.
"We wanted to fight for each other and not just for ourselves," Gathright said. "You think about the team and not just yourself, and I think that's the biggest thing I learned there."
Gathright said the biggest difference between club and collegiate soccer is the speed of play and the constant competition.
"Usually in club there's those weaker teams, but in college everyone is good," Gathright said. "You have competition every single game."
Cooper, a native of Houston, Texas, has spent much of her time over the past several years defending the goal for our nations team. She has played in multiple tournaments for the U17 US National team and was named to the U17 training camp in early 2020.
Cooper's most memorable game in the red, white, and blue came against Portugal, where she had two big penalty kick saves which led to a US victory.
"It was good things all around from everyone," Cooper said. "All together, not only from me but from everyone, it was a really good game."
Cooper said that there were plenty of ups and downs playing with Team USA, but one of her biggest takeaways from the experience was knowing when to be serious and when to have fun.
"Todd [Shulenberger] tells us 'Act like a pro, train like a pro,' so it's kind of the same thing," Cooper said. "It's important to know what environment you're in and who's around you."
Despite their very different journeys to the Palouse, all three decided to come to WSU for the same reasons: The beautiful campus and the incredible team chemistry.
"I love Todd [Shulenberger] as a coach, as a person," Tappan said. "The support staff is also great whenever we need help or support on the side."
Despite personal goals, the three freshmen want to see the team continue to win above all.
"I want to see the team succeed," Tappan said. "I'm hoping for a good rest of the season."
Catch the Cougars back home Friday, Sept. 24 against Arizona as they begin Pac-12 play after finishing non-conference play Sunday, Sept. 19 on the road at Northern Colorado.