If you’re wondering what the next step is for the Three Rivers Soccer Club, it just might be a national championship.
The Three Rivers girls 98 Black team, consisting mainly of players from Tri-City high schools, beat Seattle FC 1-0 on June 25 to win the National Cup XII Northwest Regional tournament in Redmond to qualify for the National Cup XII tournament from July 18-25 in Aurora, Colo.
It’s the first time a girls club team from Tri-Cities has advanced to the National Cup in the 12-year history of the tournament. In 2011, three boys teams from Three Rivers — U-17 Pardini, U-13 Robles and U-11 Pardini — made the trip to Boise.
Through four regional games, the 98 Black girls went undefeated, outscoring opponents 16-3 thanks to a strong team concept and a highly interchangeable lineup.
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“When we went to (regionals), I knew it was a talented group, and I wanted to challenge them,” said 98 Black coach Chad Bodnar, who also serves as coaching director for Three Rivers SC. “I didn’t plan on us winning the thing, but the kids were playing real well.”
The team has found success at each level, going 19-10-7 at U-12 under Greg Sambrano, 19-7-5 at U-13 under Kent Bader and Brian Gochoel and 27-10-9 at U-14 under Bader, reaching the State Cup semifinals in April.
“It’s one of the most athletic groups I’ve seen at this age. You can pretty much put any kid anywhere,” Bodnar said. “It’s not your typical group. In training, they ask a lot of questions. They’re very coachable, so we’re always trying different things.”
Bodnar also wanted to give his players the freedom to play for their high school teams, so he is careful not to overload them with too much practice time.
“We made commitments to their high school coaches that we wouldn’t take away from their high school training. So we’re meeting once a week, working on less physical and more tactical elements and making sure we’re building in rest.”
The high cost of travel is always one of the major sacrifices to a club player’s family, and Three Rivers is constantly looking for ways to offset the financial strain of hotels, meals and other miscellaneous costs. On July 13, Bodnar’s 98 Black squad is holding a flapjack breakfast feed from 8-10 a.m. at Applebees on Road 68 in Pasco.
The success of 98 Black is another step in the burgeoning success of Three Rivers SC. In April, Three Rivers merged with two Idaho club teams — Boise’s FC Nova and the Coeur d’Alene Sting — which opened the door for Three Rivers players to compete in the Elite Clubs National League. That gave the club access to the top competitive high school tournaments in the nation.
In May, Three Rivers merged with the Sun City Strikers, a once-flourishing club program out of Yakima that had fallen on hard times, while continuing to build its own base of players within the Tri-Cities.
Not bad for an organization that lost its Regional Club League accreditation for two years before Bodnar and several area coaches stepped in with a new vision and a rock-solid business plan.
“I wanted to build something our families can be a part of,” said Bodnar, whose wife, Lindsey, just gave birth to twin girls. And, by the way, he’s still the head coach of the men’s and women’s soccer teams at Walla Walla Community College.
“It’s been hectic, but I’ve got a great wife and great people around me,” Bodnar said. “Max Weber, Mike Pardini and Ray Evans are taking a big share of the load. The more you surround yourself with good people, the better your chances of success.”
For now, Bodnar said, Three Rivers will concentrate on building up the structure they’ve put in place.
“We have some plans down the road, but we want to focus on what we have here,” Bodnar said. “Our younger ages have grown, and our club is growing from the roots, which is what we wanted.
“With (98 Black) making the national tournament, it shows we’re going in the right direction. You have to have the base to be able to do that.”
For more information on fund-raising efforts, call 546-1402.
Three Rivers 98 Black roster: Kelly Brown, fr., Southridge; Savannah Brown, fr., Southridge; Emily Dirham, fr., Southridge; McKaley Goffard, fr., Southridge; Kiley Larsen, fr., Kamiakin; Taylor Matheny, fr., Hanford; Miranda Nelson, fr., Southridge; Kendall Pope, fr., Southridge; Emily Russell, fr., Southridge; Kayleen Sambrano, fr., Southridge; Syd Sanders, fr., Southridge; Emmalyne Schutt, fr., Prosser; Haley Thomas, fr., Southridge; Areesa Trevino, fr., Grandview; Karsyn Suhadolnik, fr., Richland; Kelsee Winston, fr., Chiawana; Taylor Yount, fr., Southridge. Coach: Chad Bodnar.