TENINO — When Tenino senior Brieanna Dell received a text from girls soccer coach Kevin Schultz that read, “Congratulations” she was confused. It was the beginning of September and the team, which would normally be preparing for its season opener, was instead sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It wasn’t until later that Dell found out she had been named to the girls soccer watchlist for the 2021 High School All-American Game, the country’s premier all-star soccer game. The top 200-plus girls soccer players across the nation are chosen and placed on a watchlist. After the 2021 season ends, the top 40 players are selected to compete in the All-American game on May 29, 2021 in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Dell was one of just nine players from Washington state chosen, including the only Class 1A or smaller classification player in the state.
“I was super excited,” Dell said. “I was home by myself and had to call everyone and let everyone know.”
It cements a fact Tenino residents were already well aware of, including her coach Kevin Schultz: Dell is hands down one of the top girls soccer players in the state, regardless of classification.
“The first thing that stands out about (Dell) when you watch her play is her speed and strength,” Schultz said. “The ability to play through contact and muscle her defender and then beat them with her speed.”
Dell used that rare combination of athleticism to take the 1A Evergreen Conference by storm the last two years. As a sophomore, Dell broke the school’s single-season goal record (25) while earning first-team all-state recognition.
As a junior in fall 2019, Dell exploded for 42 goals and 10 assists, shattering her previous single-season record and notching five alone in the season opener. She was held goalless only one time that season, instead assisting on the game-winning goal. That nabbed her the 1A Evergreen MVP, The Chronicle’s all-area co-MVP and another first-team all-state selection.
Not only was she scoring goals at an inconceivable clip, but the Beavers were winning. She led Tenino to the 1A Evergreen title and the team’s first district title in program history last fall. They followed that up with their first state victory in program history, a 2-1 win over South Whidbey. The Beavers finished 18-1-1 overall, which included a 17-game win streak that stretched from Sept. 19 to Nov. 13. The Beavers outscored opponents 84-6 during that span, eventually falling in the state quarterfinals.
Dell got her start on the pitch at 3 years old when her parents introduced her to the game. She joined a team with her parents coaching and instantly fell in love.
“The first time I pushed a ball, I knew exactly what I wanted,” Dell said.
Her dad, Shawn, played soccer for the Army, but her parents are not exactly soccer parents. They do not own a minivan. Her mom, Misty, who used to play football and wrestle, actually wanted Dell to be a wrestler.
“My mom definitely didn’t want to be a soccer mom,” Dell said.
She joined her first travel team at 10 years old, and eventually landed on the Black Hills AAU team where she’s been playing for the last seven years. Schultz coached her on that first travel team she joined, and then took over as Tenino’s head coach when she reached high school. It’s allowed them to build a player-coach relationship that has translated into success on the pitch.
“We have a lot of understanding of how to play the game and how I want to play the game,” Dell said. “He understands that if I have a problem or need help with something, he’s always willing to listen and help me out with it. The connection between coaches and players is really important.”
She credits her offensive detonations to determination and the camaraderie she’s built with her teammates and coaches. She also pointed to her parents always pushing her to do her best, not only in sports but in academics as well.
“You just have to be willing to push yourself to go further,” Dell said. “And you can’t do it by yourself. You really have to connect with your teammates and work hard together to make it worth it — and have family support.”
Is she always looking to score? Yes and no.
“I believe that it is good for me to score and to work my hardest and best, but I also believe it gives other people opportunities to work hard and to have fun playing the game,” Dell said.
She’s not some battle-hardened, emotionless player, either. She still experiences pregame butterflies and gets nervous for every match.
“That’s how it always should be,” Dell said. “You should always be nervous to play. The excitement, the tension of wanting to work hard.”
The feeling of scoring a goal remains an unrivaled feeling, she said, even after scoring 86 over her career at Tenino. She sometimes hears the goalie and defender talking, but most of the time the only thing she’s aware of is herself thinking and breathing. She blocks out the parents and spectators.
“Your heart starts to race a little bit, you get so excited and you see your teammates so excited that you all worked so hard to make one goal happen,” Dell said. “You worked so hard as a team just to get to the other side of the field and score.”
This summer has been an unusual one for Dell and her Beavers teammates. The team practiced two days a week for most the summer, social distancing 6 feet apart and performing mostly individual work. She’s currently practicing three days a week for her club team.
“It was still nice to be able to touch the ball and talk to other people,” Dell said.
For now, she’s just trying to stay sharp until the high school soccer season practice starts on March 1 under the WIAA’s modified athletic calendar. The season runs from March 8 to April 25, with a tentative postseason schedule slated for April 26 to May 2. She’s also anticipating hearing word from the All-American watchlist when it chooses its 40 players in April.