The Three Rivers girls 98 Black soccer team is at it again.
This time, the team that nearly won a national title at last year’s National Cup XII is on its way to the United States Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships, which begin Monday in Albuquerque, N.M.
After outscoring teams 98-32 and going 29-2-7 over the last year, Three Rivers is ready to make a run at the US Youth Soccer National Championships in late July.
Yes, the team has undergone a coaching change — Rob Winston is taking over for Chad Bodnar, who accepted the women’s coaching position at Eastern Washington University — but the players are still the same.
That’s exactly why Bodnar and Winston believe this team has a chance to do something special this week.
“They’ve always been real athletic. We just put some organization and style of play to what they do,” said Bodnar, who watched the team compete at elite tournaments all year. “For this group, especially after we went to nationals last year, we’re getting that exposure and expecting a higher level of what’s out there.”
Winston said the team’s strength lies not in one particular area of the field, but it can beat you in several different ways.
“Defensively, we hold our own very well. We’re tight in back,” Winston said. “We have speed up top. The two kids (McKaley Goffard and Taylor Matheny) can just run and get behind the defense. That’s our strength, putting pressure on defenses.”
Goffard (29 goals, 11 assists) and Matheny (26 goals, 8 assists) have certainly proven they can do that, combining for 55 of the team’s 98 goals and figuring into several others with their playmaking ability.
They’re looking forward to the opportunity to show what they can do on a national stage.
“We’ve grown a lot. I think we used to be timid, but now we’re a lot stronger. We’re more able to handle bigger games,” said Goffard, one of 12 Southridge High School players on the 18-player roster. “Our biggest thing we need to work on is possession. A lot of times I think we make it because we work so hard.”
Kelsee Winston is the only goalkeeper listed on the roster, but based on her performance, she's the only one 98 Black will ever need. She has allowed just 0.78 goals per game and credits her two older sisters, Kaylie and Courtney, with helping her develop her skills.
“We just want to go and show that just because we’re from a small town doesn’t mean anything. We can still play with the best teams,” she said.
In fact, they already have. Three Rivers reached the State Cup final against Eastside FC 98 Red, a team from Seattle that won the USYS National Championships last season. Three Rivers lost 4-0 but proved it can hang in there with the best teams in the nation.
“We’re not going to see anyone better than Eastside. We were the only ones to get any points off them in league play,” Rob Winston said. “It’s a tough road (at Far West). We’ll be playing the Southern California state champs, but I feel confident we can show well there.”
The team was formed by Southridge coach Greg Sambrano four years ago. Since then, 98 Black has gone 94-29-28, reaching the State Cup semifinals three times.
“It’s a really special group of kids. They just have to continue working on developing the skills they showed in the (State Cup) championship,” Sambrano said.
Three Rivers 98 Black roster: Kelly Brown, Southridge HS; Savannah Brown, Southridge HS; Emily Dirham, Southridge HS; McKaley Goffard, Southridge HS; Kiley Larsen, Kamiakin HS; Taylor Matheny, Hanford HS; Miranda Nelson, Southridge; Kendall Pope, Southridge HS; Emily Russell, Southridge HS; Kayleen Sambrano, Southridge HS; Syd Sanders, Southridge HS; Emmalyne Schutt, Southridge HS; Karsyn Suhadolnik, Richland HS; Haley Thomas, Southridge HS; Areesa Trevino, Grandview HS; Megan Wilkinson, Pasco; GK Kelsee Winston, Chiawana HS; Taylor Yount, Southridge HS.
Far West Regional — Pool D: Arsenal FC Bowers (Calif.); HSC Bulls 99 Ka'Ula (Hawaii); Rio Rapids FC 99 (New Mexico); Three Rivers Black 98.
Pool play schedule — Monday: HSC Bulls 99 Ka'Ula vs. Three Rivers Black 98, 4 p.m;. Tuesday: Arsenal FC Bowers vs. Three Rivers Black 98, 2 p.m.; Wednesday: Rio Rapids FC 99 vs. Three Rivers Black 98, noon.