Last fall was quite the season for Camas High School sophomore Maddie Kemp. The striker set the school’s single-season goal scoring mark with 31, including the first goal in the Class 4A state championship game to help the Papermakers win their first title in a decade.
You would think she would have a trophy wall at her house where her parents, Jeff and Kelly, proudly display their star daughter’s accomplishments.
“I think they’re in my closet,” Kemp said, cracking a smile.
Don’t think that she’s not proud of the honors she earned, all the goals she scored, but for Kemp, they are just the icing on the cake. For Kemp, it’s all about the camaraderie of her teammates and the championship they earned together.
“It’s not about me being selfish and scoring goals,” she said. “No matter what team you’re on, it’s important to create a family. My team is my family.”
Papermakers coach Roland Minder appreciates that mindset. “It’s a team sport, a team game, and what an individual player does is dependent on how the team plays,” the longtime Camas coach said. “Just the way the team was able to work together, and her creativity on the ball, was definitely out of the ordinary.”
Minder said Kemp isn’t what a coach traditionally looks for in a striker—as he described it, someone who’s tall and physical, who drives the ball and breaks through the back line with speed.
Instead, Minder praised her technical skills and ability to keep the ball while working in tight spaces.
“She’s not the traditional striker,” he said. “But she has a nose for goal, and while that’s something that can be massaged a bit, you either have it, or you don’t. It’s a natural thing for her. Taking that responsibility upon herself, some people don’t want it, but she definitely enjoys that responsibility.”
It’s been that way since Kemp was five years old and her dad coached her playing indoor soccer in Salmon Creek. “We’d be scoring about 13 goals on teams, and the parents would be so angry,” she recalled. “But what I really liked about it was that I made really solid friends. I didn’t want to stop playing.”
The goals kept piling up when she moved up against tougher competition. She regularly amassed hat tricks as a 10-year-old, and with each one, her goal became clearer.
“I knew then I wanted to play D-1,” she said. “It’s why I play, to get to play at the highest level.”
That dream still is a couple of years away, but she already knows where it will take place. Kemp verbally committed to Gonzaga University this spring during an unofficial visit. She had also visited Pepperdine University and a few PAC-12 schools. At Gonzaga everything clicked.
“It was the first time I realized that I want to go to a small, private school,” she said. “Gonzaga isn’t a big-name soccer school, but those kind of things don’t matter to me.”
What mattered was meeting with Chris Watkins, who had just taken the head coaching position at the school a couple of months earlier, and buying into his vision.
“We talked about life values, which was something very important to me,” she said, “and how they’re serious about changing the program to become one of the top teams in the West Coast Conference.”
Watkins agreed to watch her the next day play for her club team, FC Portland Academy, in a league match against Washington Premier FC. Kemp scored the game-winner with five minutes remaining. Watkins and Kemp spoke by phone later that day about a scholarship.
“It all happened so quickly,” Kemp said. “But I talked with my parents, and I just felt like everything happened for a reason. It was the place I had to go.”
Before she heads off to Spokane, though, there’s the pesky matter of what she’ll do for an encore in her junior season. Kemp, with 47 goals in her first two seasons, is already more than halfway to the school’s career scoring mark of 81 set by Lisa Hogan from 2000-2003.
With 10 seniors having graduated from last year’s state champs, Minder will lean on Kemp to take on more of a leadership role this season, while at the same time try to find others to take the pressure off her on the field.
“Last year, we had the luxury of, if Maddie didn’t beat them, then Alyssa (Tomasini, now playing at Western Oregon) did,” Minder said. “And if not one of them, then someone else did. You couldn’t focus on just Maddie.
“It’ll be a process to figure it out. I’m looking at a couple of players who played defense last year to give them a look up top or at midfield. We’ll have 10 days to get organized and preseason games to show our weaknesses and get to the right level.”
Kemp is ready for the challenge.
“Minder says 40 goals. Who knows?” she said. “But I know he expects a lot more from me now. He’s going to look to me and the other returners to put the team on our shoulders and show the younger kids what’s demanded of us at Camas.”
And if all goes well, there’ll be more hardware for Kemp to store in some closet at her home.
Maddie Kemp’s Favorite Things
TV show: Grey’s Anatomy
It made me want to be a nurse or a doctor, something medical. I’m going to study sports management or kinesiology in college.
Movie: Hannah Montana: The Movie
It’s so good. It’s the most inspirational movie ever. Life is a climb, and the view is great.
Food: Thai cuisine
It’s just so good, but it has to be the right type of Thai. Otherwise, it’s the worst day ever.
School subject: History
I love learning about inspirational people like Rosa Parks, people who change the world.
Breakfast cereal: None
I hate cereal and milk. If you try to feed me that, you’re not my friend.