Sequim Wolves soccer goalkeeper Claire Henninger thought about what she could do to boost her team’s underclassmen-heavy roster prior to her junior soccer season.
“I definitely try to build them up,” Henninger said of motivating her teammates.
“Before the season I thought about how I wanted to be better at communicating, not just about keeping balls out of the goal but helping my teammates more.
“Lots of times before games, I’d say, ‘Let’s get some shots from you, let’s see some good crosses, some good marking, let’s get that connection going.’
“We had a lot of young players and they needed encouragement. The other teams were bigger and older and more experienced and they needed the boost to know they could play at that level.”
They could. And so could Henninger, who has been a fixture in goal for Sequim since her freshman season.
And this season, and Henninger’s paramount role as the last line of defense for a Wolves team that produced an 11-8-1 record, the most wins in school history, as well as 10 shutouts and a district playoff victory, was extra special.
“She’s a phenomenal goalkeeper and definitely kept us in the game many times and won us some games,” first-year Sequim head coach Derek Vander Velde said.
“We needed to a be a highly defensive team to be successful. Defense has to come first before you can even think about attacking and having a goalie like Claire to help set up our defensive structure and make clutch saves was crucial.”
Vander Velde said Henninger’s play was a motivator for her Sequim teammates.
Henninger was selected to the All-Olympic League 2A Division by league coaches.
She’s also the All-Peninsula MVP as determined by area coaches and the sports staff of the Peninsula Daily News.
Henninger, who has played the position since she started organized soccer at the U8 level, welcomes the spotlight on the soccer field’s most solitary position.
“I enjoy having a role that gives me more responsibility and an ability to change the outcome of our games,” Henninger said. “It’s where I can help the team more. I think it gives us the biggest chance of helping us out and getting us some Ws (wins).”
Henninger looks back at the season proudly.
“One of the biggest things that stood out to me was 10 shutouts this season in 16 games,” she said.
“That’s a really big accomplishment for us and not many teams can do that. I credit an improved team dynamic with our new coach, weightlifting sessions, hard work in practices, and you could see that connection come through out on the field. We played for each other and fought for each other. It was a big difference from previous seasons and making the postseason was incredible for everybody to be apart of.”
She’ll keep honing her craft in the offseason.
“You can always get better on technique, so I will continue to work on my technique,” Henninger said. “My senior season I just want to ball out and have a good time and do some crazy things and go all out and have no regrets. I don’t want to look back and think I could have done more.”