Rebels softball firing on all cylinders

Each and every game begins the same.

The Rebels have been rolling this year thanks in part to the play of (left to right) junior Brooke Rychard

Each and every game begins the same.

Before every game that the Juanita softball team plays, the goal list is read.

Pick each other up. Talk it up. Never leave a runner on third. Always lay down the bunt. Win KingCo.

Go to state.

The last is the ultimate goal, but without the ones that come before it, it is nothing. That list, written by coach Kristian Dahl and his team before the season, is just another reminder to keep the eyes on the prize.

“We keep those goals in the back of our minds all the time,” said senior third baseman Jennifer Welch. “It keeps us focused on winning.”

And winning is what the Rebels (13-1) have done so far this year, losing only once since dropping from 4A to 3A.

But don’t think the classification change means that Juanita can’t run with the big dogs. The Rebels kicked off the season by going 5-1 against 4A competition in non-league play, losing only to Inglemoor 2-1 on March 24.

“That was great motivation, just a great boost for the season, knowing we could compete against the 4A’s still,” said Dahl, in his second year as Juanita’s head coach. “We knew the girls were very talented and we are going to compete. They’ve come out and proven that.”

The Rebels run has been made possible by strong performances in all three facets of the game: big hitting, tough defense and dominant pitching.

Brooke Rychard is hitting over .500 with 14 RBIs while Kellie Shinstrom has knocked in 12 runs. The offense has come consistently as well; the Rebels have scored five or more runs in 12 of their 14 games.

“It really helps to have an offense that can be sparked at any time,” Dahl said. “We’ve hit the ball when we’ve needed to hit the ball.”

But the biggest factor in Juanita’s success has been the play of pitcher Kylie Sparks. The junior is 12-1 this season, has struck out 96 batters and walked only nine batters.

Sparks is averaging over strikeouts per game and has allowed more than two runs only once all season.

“She’s been very dominant this year, very on her game,” Dahl said. “It’s very rare for her to have a bad game. She just mentally has it as a pitcher.”

“When I go out and they score five goals for me, it makes my job way easier,” Sparks added.

Behind Sparks, the Rebels have been consistently ranked among the top-5 3A teams this season and are leading the KingCo Conference with a 7-0 mark. But don’t tell that to Dahl, who prefers the Rebels roll under the radar.

“I don’t want the target on our backs,” he said. “We want to be the underdog and come in and show teams what we can do.”

The girls do say one thing: follow the rules laid out by the team goals, and all will go well.

“As long as we play to our abilities, we’ll be able to crush every team we go on the field with,” Welch said.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Sports

Doctor IDs safety measures for youth team sports practices

Before practice begins, parents must understand COVID-19 protective protocols

Pictured: A Mercer Island High School swimmer competes in fall 2019. Washington Interscholastic Activities Association recently announced the girls swim and dive season will be moved to “Season 3,” which begins March 1. File photo
WIAA gives schools option to delay start of prep sports until December

An updated plan moves girls swimming to Season 3 and makes fall cross country an alternate season.

The Todd Beamer Titans football team in Federal Way during a 2019 summer practice. File photo
WIAA modifies prep sports calendar; football moved to spring

Washington’s high school athletics governing body announced its revised plans for the… Continue reading

WIAA delays start dates for fall sports

Football practices to begin Sept. 5, all other sports planned for Sept. 7.

Northwest University’s Ford signs with Seattle Mountaineers

The 6-foot-6-inch forward ended his senior season as the No. 1 rebounder in the nation with 12.03 rebounds per game.

Northwest’s volleyball team stays connected during trying times

The squad has been using Zoom to hold weekly meetings during which they check in and pray for each other if needed.

No-show season: WIAA announces cancellation of spring sports, activities

Due to the school closure extension, the cancellation includes all practices, competitions, tournaments and championships, WIAA says.

There’s still hope for spring sports, WIAA announces

Washington Interscholastic Activities Association making contingency plans for high school sports competitions after extension of stay home order.

The WIAA announced Wednesday that if schools reopen at the conclusion of the six-week statewide shutdown ordered last week by Gov. Jay Inslee, then the state championships will go on as planned. (WIAA photo)
WIAA still hoping to hold state championships in May

But if the school shutdown extends past April 24, those championships could be in jeopardy.

Athletic practices and competitions cancelled through April 24 due to coronavirus outbreak

By Andy Nystrom and Benjamin Olson Gov. Jay Inslee announced on March… Continue reading

Games are being postponed in response to coronavirus outbreak

In response to the recent coronavirus outbreak, Eastside schools are taking precautions… Continue reading

Kangs fall to Bulldogs in championship game

Lake Washington finished in second place at the 3A state basketball tournament.