REDDING, Calif. – The last time the Knights were on the verge of a playoff berth, the current players hadn't even started playing competitive sports yet.
Shasta College's women's soccer team is second in the Golden Valley Conference standings and in position to reach the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Northern California Regional tournament.
It's been so long since it's happened that head coach Dan Fults isn't sure.
"I think there's a women's soccer trophy in the case from 2001 but I have no idea when we were in the playoffs last, and that's obviously our focus," Fults said.
Shasta (11-4-1) locked up its first winning season already since recording a 10-7-2 overall mark in 2011. The Knights have seen enormous growth in the past two seasons, going from a one-win program in 2015 to double-digits this fall.
"The biggest turnaround is the strong desire from the girls to win," Fults said. "They're doing all the small things. Some of the second-year players are realizing this might be their last opportunity to play at a competitive level and they're making the most of it."
For some of the girls, they can feel the difference just being in practice and on the field. The whole atmosphere has changed, said sophomore Taylor Pinnell.
"There's way better chemistry and we're all working toward the same thing, striving for the playoffs," Pinnell said.
A total of 10 girls have scored this year and 12 have registered a point. Sophomore Haley Moebes is the leading scorer with 10 goals, followed by Rylie Pinnell's nine, and Matie Silva-Bradley's seven. All three are sophomores that have been catalysts for transforming the program into a success.
Even more impressive is that they Knights have posted five shutouts without a true goalkeeper. Six players have spent time in goal this season and Shasta usually has one person for each half.
"A couple of us have never played keeper so we depend a lot on our defense and midfield to get back and cover the players," said sophomore Ally Erickson, who is second on the team with 23 saves behind Paige Reed's 36.
With a group made up of local talent, the Knights believe they have the recipe to reach the postseason. Shasta has to get past Friday's road match at Lassen before facing first-place Lake Tahoe, and going on the road for the determining game against Butte to finish the season.
The Knights hold a one-game lead on the Roadrunners and won the earlier back-and-forth matchup 3-2, meaning a tie or win will secure the No. 2 spot in the GVC standings and strengthen their case for a playoff spot.
The playoffs are everything they've been working for – the ultimate goal, Fults said. But he's hoping it will change the culture of women's soccer in the area.
"It would mean so much to the girls and to women's soccer in Shasta County," Fults said. "Hopefully high quality female soccer players want to stay here and play in their home town instead of looking elsewhere."