Over the past few years, Chiawana High School’s Summer Yates has been one of the most explosive soccer players in the Mid-Columbia Conference. No surprise, given that the junior forward is wrapping up her second year with the United States U-16 Girls’ National Team.
Two weeks ago, Yates returned from a trip with the 20-player squad to the Netherlands, where the team played three matches against 17- and 18-year-old teams and spent a couple of weeks enjoying Dutch culture.
Yates played in two of the matches and certainly made her mark. She scored the Americans’ final goal on a penalty kick in their 3-3 draw against the Netherlands U-17 Women’s National Team, and netted another one in the trip’s final match, a 2-1 victory against U-18 regional club CTO Eindhoven.
“It was pretty cool playing against all the Dutch teams and seeing what they do, how they train,” Yates said. “We got to have a day with them to see what they do, like their soccer style compared to ours. It was cool to see how their culture and our culture were different.”
While matches and training filled up most of her trip, Yates said she was able to get out and enjoy the country with her teammates.
“On this trip, we actually got to go out and, like, explore a little bit — our coach wanted us to experience the culture,” Yates said. “We went on a boat ride through the Netherlands. It was pretty cool.”
Yates played for the U.S. U-16 team in April during a three-match tournament in Italy. The Americans lost to Italy and Mexico at the tournament but beat Iran 6-0 in their middle game.
Yates and the other girls on the U-16 team will conceivably move up to the U.S. U-18 team next year and then the U-20 team two years after that, with hopes of playing in the 2020 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
How the MCC will be won
Three games remain for most Mid-Columbia Conference schools — Hanford and Kennewick will play a makeup game within the next week, so they have four.
The league picture is pretty clear for the Class 3A schools — Southridge (11-2, 9-2 MCC) has a two-game lead over Kamiakin (8-5, 7-4) for the top seed into the regional playoffs with the Greater Spokane League, and Kennewick (2-10, 0-10) is headed to a loser-out play-in game.
Southridge coach Greg Sambrano, whose Suns have placed second at state the past two seasons, feels confident about his squad’s chances to jump through the hoops and make it back to the promised land.
“I think we have the potential to win a state championship, but we still have lots of things we can continue to improve on,” Sambrano said.
Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson said her team’s potential trip through the playoffs — assuming it remains the MCC’s No. 2 seed — will be as much of a mental test as it will be a physical one. That’s because of the possibility of four games just to get to the “glue” play-in round for state with teams from the Metro League and KingCo.
“We are looking to solidify for playoffs and wrap our brain around this new ‘glue’ concept. It will be a lot of games,” Erikson said. “Our bench is crucial to survival in this game-after-game format.”
The Braves have been helped mightily by their depth this season. Aaliyah Valladares has six goals, and Izzy Conover and Maddie Morgan each have five. Eleven players have recorded assists for Kamiakin.
Among the MCC’s 4A schools, Chiawana (7-4) has earned some breathing room as the No. 2 team behind Hanford (9-3, 8-2). The Riverhawks lead Richland (7-5, 6-5) by a game and own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bombers.
Even after missing three games because of her trip to the Netherlands, Yates undoubtedly has been the Riverhawks’ leader. She has 17 goals and six assists.
Chiawana coach Rich Zoller said the solid play of freshman outside defender Kylee Alvarez has been a pleasant surprise. She and the rest of the Riverhawks’ back four have recorded three shutouts and done a fair job of neutralizing opposing offenses, with the exception of the seven goals they allowed against Southridge on Oct. 1.
While Richland remains well within striking range of Chiawana, the Bombers suffered a blow when sophomore forward Jazmine Gray broke her collarbone against Southridge last Thursday, which will cause her to miss the rest of the season. Even with the loss of one of the Bombers’ most productive players up front, first-year coach Justin Almquist remains optimistic.
“Although the team had a tough week against two of the tougher opponents in the conference (Chiawana and Southridge), we feel we have been constantly improving our game over the course of the season,” Almquist said. “If we can shore up our set piece defense and continue our rate of improvement over the last few weeks of the regular season, then we should be able to enter the postseason on the front foot.”
Richland finishes the regular season with Kamiakin on Thursday, Pasco on Tuesday and Hanford on Oct. 20.
Momentum, tiebreakers and overall team performance are all on Hanford’s side as it heads into the stretch run.
The Falcons hold a 1 1/2 -game lead over Chiawana. Their losses came against 3A Southridge and Kamiakin, so the best Chiawana and Richland can do is tie them in head-to-head play. The Falcons have 11 goal scorers and have received solid play from their back line and goalkeeper Kelsee Winston. She has 49 saves and five clean sheets.
“I think we have done a pretty good job putting ourselves in a good position moving forward,” Hanford coach Kaylie Winston said. “We know we have some big tests to finish out the season, but our girls look forward to the challenge. And being 4A champs is their goal, and they want to accomplish it.”
After games against Kennewick on Thursday and Saturday, Hanford closes its regular season by hosting Chiawana on Tuesday and playing Richland two days later at Bomber Field.
It seems likely that Pasco (6-7, 4-7) and Walla Walla (3-9, 2-9) are headed to a loser-out play-in game for the MCC/GSL regional.