By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published March 15, 2023
Semi-pro soccer team to play in Nationals
Doug Ramsay photo
Snohomish County Steelheads team midfielders Anna Roslander (left) and M’ily Morton dig for possession of the ball along the boards during a team practice at the Snohomish Sports Dome on Wednesday, March 8.
The Steelheads have the trophy, now they want the cup
SNOHOMISH — The title decider where the Steelheads punched their ticket into Nationals became a nail-biter. Snohomish County's only semi-pro women's indoor soccer team was trounced by Tacoma just two weeks before.
The score tied up late during a repeat face-off between the Steelheads and the Tacoma Galaxy inside the Snohomish Sports Dome on Maple Avenue.
But the "Fish" clinched it with five minutes left with a 5-4 win March 4. Beyond emerging with a trophy, the nationals in Louisville now await March 23 through 27.
That was a tough game, players generally agreed.
That game clinched the team's second Northwest Premier League championship trophy in as many seasons. The women's team debuted in 2022.
Indoor soccer is intense. Soccer balls whizz and bounce off the walls.
The strategies are different, and the walls get used a lot, defender Kiah Dayton of Snohomish said.
"You've got to use them to your advantage," said midfielder and forward Kiana Jacobson of Lynnwood, but the arena's tight confines mean it's easy to have the ball intercepted. Coming from outdoor soccer, strategizing is one of the things Jacobson said she loves about indoor. She played for Monroe High's team before college.
"The game's about 'creating the mistake' through pressure" on the opposing team, head coach Vasco Rubio said. With a mistake, you can take the ball.
In fact, he discourages deflecting off the wall for passing the ball. Too unpredictable where it may bounce.
These walls are familiar for him: He coached the now-defunct Snohomish Skyhawks that played in this arena for years.
The community and camaraderie draws the Steelheads together.
Defender Liz Moretti put it this way: "We're all kind of like a family, we bring the community together and have a fun time."
Most of the teammates played in high school and were standouts in college soccer. A few are old buds from Western Washington University.
The fans come out. Close to 200 people packed the stands for the title-decider game.
"It's incredible to have that support," said defender Peyton Chick, a top goal scorer in the league. "We take it serious, even if it's meant to be fun."
Many, such as Jacobson of Lynnwood and defender Kelis Barton of Renton aspire to get into the pro leagues either in Europe or in America's National Women's Soccer League (NSLW). Some will be playing in the pre-pro USL-W league this summer.
The drive is there. The camaraderie is true.
"This team here, we fight for each other and play for one another," equipment manager Jeff Christianson of Everett said.
With how well the team drives itself, Rubio quipped there's not a lot for him to do.
"These are high-quality players," he said.
Co-captains M’ily (pronounced "Emily") Morton of Woodinville, who plays center-midfield, and defender Mariah Roggow of Bellevue can attest.
"It's a good group of girls who are competitive," said Morton, who's also the head coach of the Woodinville High School girls soccer team.
The team has created a deep bench by adding many strong players, Morton said. Games are about an hour long.
Snohomish County FC as an organization is a quad-pack of teams: Men's and women's outdoor, and men's and women's indoor.
Dorian Lair, one of the men's players, is the Steelheads' general manager.
One of his goals is to solidify the Steelheads in the public's eye as Snohomish's pro-level team. Part of this is to make the team more prominent in the community. It could mean joining with youth soccer camps and being in other events.
Lair would love to take these teams into the pro leagues, but that leap is cost prohibitive.
But he said he's trying to buck a pervasive system where the wealthier people move up the professional ladder. "I don't want people to have to pay to do the things they love," Lair said.
The team is working to defray the cost to get to Kentucky. All are unpaid players.
He said people describe the Steelheads as the most pro-like semi-pro organization in the semi-pros. It has some sponsors, but not enough. They host team fundraiser galas, but those may bring in a few thousand dollars.
The team is holding a fundraiser to ask people to "sponsor a player." If you want to do so, see https://snocofc.com/product/sponsor-a-steelhead/
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