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Grace on the grass
The terror begins with a persistent fever.
A child can experience a temperature of 102 to 104 degrees for up to five days. Other symptoms range from bloodshot eyes to swollen hands and feet.
South Kitsap sophomore Becca Schoales seemed like an unlikely candidate for Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children and infants that involves inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body.
The disease occurs most frequently in Japan, where it was discovered, and in males. While she might not fit that demographic, Schoales would not be alive without detection when she was about two months old. Patients typically are treated with high-dose aspirin along with intravaneous gamma globulin.
It was a disease, Schoales said, that was expected to prevent her from playing sports. Instead, she leads the Wolves with 14 goals from her forward position through Tuesday.
“It would’ve been such a life-changer if I hadn’t been able to play sports,” said Schoales, adding that she has been cleared to play by a cardiologist. “I’m glad I overcame it.”
While many high-school students still are struggling to figure out a career, she already knows what she wants to pursue. Schoales, who maintains a 3.6 grade-point average, called Stanford her dream school because of its well-regarded medical program.
“I want to be a cardiologist,” she said. “I just want to help people like me.”
South coach Julie Cain, who was an assistant from 2002-05 for Seattle Pacific’s women’s soccer team, has seen many top-level prospects through recruiting and her experience with club teams. But even Cain acknowledges that Schoales is different.
She might be the school’s first national-level recruit since tennis player Stephanie Davison signed in 2006 with Texas.
“I believe she will have an opportunity to play anywhere she wants,” she said.
Schoales moves as gracefully on the grass at Joe Knowles Field as an experienced decathlon runner. Her legs tread toward a loose ball so quickly that the competition often appears speedy as a Pygmalion statue as her yellow-and-maroon jersey moves by in a blur to win possession.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who can stay with her,” Cain said. “She’s really fast.”
But possessing elite speed does not always translate to success on the pitch. Schoales, who does not run track and has not been timed in any running activities recently, also is a sound technical player.
“Becca’s so special because she combines tremendous speed and athleticism with high-level skill, an ability to read the game with amazing pace and creativity and the discipline to execute her ideas,” Cain said. “Becca is one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached.”
Schoales credits much that development to her older brother, Kyle, a 2008 South graduate who played soccer at the school as well. Because of his influence, Schoales said she has played the game as long as she can remember.
“I remember we would go outside and he would teach me new moves,” she said. “He really helped me. Pretty much all of my skills (come from) him.”
The two are not able to play or even talk regularly now as he is in the Air Force and stationed in the Middle East. But Schoales enjoys sharing her playing experiences with him when they catch up.
As a member of the U-15 U.S. National team, Schoales had an opportunity to compete in a tournament earlier this year in Costa Rica. In addition to the competition, Schoales enjoyed experiencing different food and ziplining through the rain forest, where she saw many animals, including crocodiles.
“It was really fun to see the Costa Rican culture and eat their food,” she said.
Schoales likely will experience more travel in the coming years as she tentatively is scheduled to play in the 2012 Fifa U-17 Women’s World Cup. She said qualifying for that is set for next year.
For now, Schoales is excited about the prospect of helping the Wolves toward a Class 4A Narrows League title. In addition to Schoales, South features a sophomore class that includes midfielder Miranda Caballero, defender Delaney Digiovanni and forward Brita Oleson, a group that Cain called the most talented she has coached at the high-school level.
Schoales said she enjoys playing with those three at South because she competes for Crossfire Premier during club season, while the others are on different teams.
“On our club teams, we’re rivals and go at it,” she said. “For high school it’s really fun to come together and play really well.”
Despite scoring 11 goals last year as the Wolves advanced to the state quarterfinals, Schoales said she never felt comfortable taking a leadership role with the team. After all, she attended Marcus Whitman Junior High while most of her teammates were at the high school.
“Last year I didn’t feel like I should be directing the team,” she said.
That has changed this season as Schoales said she has tried to cultivate her leadership skills. Schoales said most of that comes through non-verbal communication and Cain said that was evident through her work in the Wolves’ 3-1 win Oct. 5 against Gig Harbor.
“Becca Schoales put us on our shoulders,” she said. “I thought she inspired us with our work rate and her communication.”
Cain said that was an important development. She said her team played listlessly in ties at Stadium and Central Kitsap to open league competition. The Wolves then won five consecutive games before they tied Stadium, 1-all, on Oct. 7 to fall into a tie for second place.
Schoales said the consecutive ties changed the team’s perspective. Despite its success, South has only five seniors on its roster.
“I think we thought we were really good,” Schoales said. “Now we’re starting to step it up and know we have to work hard to win.”
And she knows that is what it will take to accomplish another one of her objectives.
“I feel like definitely we’re going to win a state championship within the next three years,” Schoales said. “I’m hoping we do it this year.”