Eastside FC girls look to make history at national tournament

July 8, 2013

By Neil Pierson

The group of girls who form the Eastside FC 95 White soccer squad have tasted unprecedented success over the course of the 2013 season.

First came a strong regular season in which the 18-and-under club went 10-3-1 and outscored its opponents 30-6.

Eastside-FC

Eastside FC’s Amanda Ulrich tries to maintain possession as Rachel Waddell, left, and Sydney Smith apply pressure during a July 3 team practice. The 18-and-under squad has dominated its opposition enroute to state and regional titles, and will play for Eastside FC’s first girls national crown this week. Photo by Neil P{ierson

Many of the players had been with coach Ryan Dortch since they were 11, but none of them had hoisted a state-championship trophy. That changed when Eastside FC obliterated the opposition at the Virginia Mason Washington Youth Soccer Challenge Cup. Their offense erupted for 27 goals over seven games.

Winning the state cup sent Eastside FC to Boise, Idaho, in June for the Region IV Presidents Cup. After some easy victories in the group stages, the knockout rounds proved much more difficult. Eastside FC survived a penalty-kick shootout to beat an Idaho team in the semifinals, then got a late goal from Viktoriya Vasina to win the regional title, 1-0, over a Utah opponent.

Now the team faces one more test: Win the National Presidents Cup tournament, which takes place July 11-14 in Auburndale, Fla. Eastside FC will face opponents from Texas, North Dakota and New York in the round-robin format.

Another claim to fame is on the line. According to club records that date back to 1998, no Eastside FC girls squad has won a national title.

Most of the girls attend different high schools, but they’ve bonded through their club schedule, which comprises a big chunk of the year.

“I think we’ve really gotten to know how everyone else on the team plays,” said Emma Elder, a Skyline High senior-to-be. “We’ve really been able to mesh well together, so we’re really in synch, and I think that helps out a lot.”

While the team practices together only twice a week, their sessions are an intense, lunch-bucket approach to soccer. They’ve been playing in sweats to prepare for the heat in Florida. Dortch has asked them to wake up earlier than normal so they can adjust to the three-hour time change.

“We work really hard together, and we’ve just been taking one step at a time and checking off the to-do list to get to where we need to be,” said Kelsey Lindor, a Mount Si senior-to-be.

While the offense gets much of the accolades for Eastside FC’s winning ways – they had eight different goal-scorers in a 9-1 regional-tourney win – the defense has been just as good.

Along with goalkeeper Emily Baril of Skyline and left back Amanda Ulrich of Issaquah, Lindor, a central defender, and Elder, a defensive midfielder, have keyed the team’s shutdown tactics.

“We’ve figured out how to shift and move as a unit, and when someone steps (up), there would always be someone to drop back,” Elder said. “So we’re all on the same page 99 percent of the time.”

Amanda Ulrich and her sister, Ally, said the team is hungry to win at nationals.

“Every single practice, we come in and the first thing we talk about is our determination for it, and make sure we all have the mindset for it,” Amanda Ulrich said.

The team had some new personnel at the start of the season, and a couple players had to bounce back from injuries, but there was little long-term impact, Ally Ulrich said.

“In the beginning, with a new team, it’s always a little tough, but then right as the season started, we just hit it off, and we were beating teams and destroying them,” she said.

The postseason has been a grind, Dortch indicated. Eastside FC had to play six games in five days at regionals, which clearly took a toll on many of the players. Vasina, who attends Auburn Mountainview, was a major reason why the team pulled through, the coach said.

“I think she played every minute of the semifinal the day before, which went into extra time, so she played 120 minutes the day before,” Dortch said. “But she just was so determined, and you could tell that she was going to be the difference-maker in that (championship) game.”

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