Keri Tomasetti has served as an assistant coach for the Camas High School (CHS) girls soccer team for the past 14 years, but she’s entering her first season as the squad’s head coach after her mentor, Roland Minder, retired earlier this year.
With Minder at the helm, the Papermakers won 12 4A Greater St. Helens League championships and two state titles. CHS finished second at the state tournament last season, falling to Skyline in the championship contest.
Eight players from last season’s team, including all-time leading scorer Maddie Kemp, now playing for Gonzaga University, graduated.
Right before the season started Tomasetti learned she would have no assistant coach because of district budget cuts, so she called her favorite retired soccer coach.
“I asked him if he would come back and volunteer to help, and he was more than happy to do so,” Tomasetti said.
Over the past decade, Minder and Tomasetti have led the program to nine state tournaments, six state tournament semifinal appearances and a state title in 2016.
The coaching roles may be reversed this season, but Tomasetti said she’s been in a partnership with Minder for so long that the change seems very natural for both of them.
While this year’s team is rebuilding in some positions, several players return with varsity experience. The two senior captains, Elizabeth Parker and Anna Sanchez, are the heart and soul of the Papermakers’ defense.
“I’m looking to build connections with all of the girls on and off the field this year,” Parker said. “That way when we get on the field we connect and everyone is really communicating with each other.”
Sanchez had the good fortune of playing with the very vocal Kemp, who was a leader on and off the field. Sanchez is working hard to develop similar communication skills.
“(Kemp) would always talk to me on the field and instruct me what to do and would always be there for me,” Sanchez said. “Now I’m trying to talk on the field a lot very loudly. It’s something I’ve been working on.”
This year’s CHS team may be a bit younger than last season’s group, but sophomore offensive players Kiya Gramps and Jasmine Whittington have stepped up early in the season.
On Thursday, Sept. 12, Gramps scored three goals and Whittington scored two goals in the Papermakers’ 7-0 win over Reynolds High School.
“There’s no doubt Kiya and Jazzy will be among our top scorers this season,” Tomasetti said.
Parker has been impressed with the offensive mindset of her younger teammates.
“Wow, a hat trick. I’m really proud of (Gramps),” Parker said. “She just came in with the mentality that she wanted to score and went out there and did it three times.”
CHS’ goal for this season is to return to the 4A state tournament semifinals. While the Papermakers are rebuilding in some positions, the team is not lacking in senior leadership or young talent.
“I was a little scared going into this season having lost such an amazing front line, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to do it this year,” Tomasetti said. “But some players have just stepped up and taken on the roles.”
Papermakers honor departed friend
The Sept. 12 game was emotionally charged as the entire CHS team wore black armbands to honor Alicea De Vera, a 2019 CHS graduate who passed away Sept. 9 due to complications from brain cancer.
Three of De Vera’s older siblings played soccer for the Papermakers and went on to play in college.
The entire De Vera family gathered together at Doc Harris Stadium as the crowd held a pregame moment of silence for Alicea.
Support from the CHS soccer community has been a comfort to the De Vera family, which is dealing with substantial medical costs. A GoFundMe account has been created to aid the family. Tomasetti, who taught Alicea when she was in eighth grade, said the De Vera family has always been an inspiration to the CHS soccer program.
“Alicea’s older sisters and brother both played in our soccer programs and are accomplished players at high levels,” Tomasetti said. “Their parents are amazing and come to our games, even though their kids are not here anymore.”
The Papermakers took all that emotion and transferred it to the soccer field field, giving the De Vera family something to smile about.