SEQUIM — Sequim seniors Natalya James and Amara Sayer will bring more of the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic League to their next destination, Edmonds College.
James, a four-year starter in the midfield for the Wolves, and James, a Sequim defender who traded in her ballet shoes for soccer cleats, both signed letters of intent to play soccer for the Tritons.
James and Sayer will join former Wolves teammate Gabby Happe and Port Angeles graduate Lucah Folden, a rival during high school play but a teammate during training with the Peninsula Soccer Academy on the Edmonds roster. Class of 2020 members Happe, Folden and Olympic’s Kiarra Richards all signed with Edmonds earlier this year.
“That’s what’s really unique about Edmonds, we’ve all been super rivals in the league, but we all mesh together well,” Sayer said.
“We already know their playing style and we’re already bonded by playing against each other,” James added.
Tritons coach Aaron Howe previously coached James’ brother Evan, a former Sequim player now at Spokane Community College.
He’s excited about bringing aboard two more Sequim standouts.
“Amara is a defender that has outstanding athleticism and can cross well with both feet,” Howe said. “I can see her playing outside back or wingback or winger for us. She has strong potential.”
Sayer also is well known for her communication on the field, yelling out instructions on positioning and making sure opponents are accounted for.
“I like to talk,” Sayer said. “It helps me become a better player myself, talking about what’s going on in the game and constantly being verbal. I think it helps the team and keeps me aware of what’s happening.”
It’s been a rapid rise for Sayer, who joined Sequim girls soccer as a freshman after being brought up with ballet.
“It’s given me so much flexibility, strength and discipline,” Sayer said of her dance upbringing. “As a defender it’s all about discipline, and being aware of your surroundings and anticipating the next move.”
Sequim coach Derek VanderVelde said James has been a calm presence in the midfield.
“Other players look to Natalya for a sense of direction,” VanderVelde said. “She consistently puts herself in good positions and knows where and when to pass the ball or take space. She didn’t score a lot of goals, but she always was our defensive midfielder, a huge role that’s always working with the back line.”
Howe said he expects her to continue to play in the midfield, either continuing as a holding, or defensive, midfielder or even moving up to be an attacking midfielder.
“She’s got very good feet and is a strong tackler and player,” Howe said.
VanderVelde said both players have always had a growth mentality.
“For both of them they have always wanted to grow and to continually get better in their positions,” he said. “They kind of always took what the coaching staff said, and we were pretty nit-picky with them because we knew what they way were working toward, and they were always receptive to what we were working on.”
“I’m proud of both them in wanting to go and play and make opportunities for themselves. Now they get to go play with another alumni in Gabby and that’s so exciting for them.”
And both James and Sayer believe playing at Edmonds can open doors to four-year schools.
“I think Aaron will push you to the next level and I have that drive. He has good connections with other schools and I think he can get me to the next level,” James said.
“I like his coaching style and I feel Like if I want to he can help me find a place to continue playing a sport that I love,” Sayer said.
James and Sayer also take pride in establishing a new standard at Sequim, including being part of the first district championship-winning girls soccer team and making the first-ever state tournament appearance in school history in 2018.
“It’s really been awesome to see how much our success brought more attention to girls soccer at the school,” Sayer said.
James said she’s proud of the legacy her teams leave behind.
“We tried to push each other not just for us, but for future generations. Sequim had no record really, in girls soccer and we won a district championship and got to state. So we learned it’s possible, just don’t give up.”
And both players gave thanks to those who supported them along the way.
“Coach V and Coach Antonio [Frutos], Erin Vigg, all the coaches,” Sayer said. “My parents have supported me so much, they even supported me when I decided to drop ballet after 11 years and paid for me to play a sport that isn’t exactly cheap.
James thanked her current coaches as well as Andrew Wagner, who coached her when she was younger.
“My family really has been a huge part of it as well,” James said.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.