Five local soccer teams competed in the Washington State Youth Soccer Recreation Cup semifinals and finals at the Starfire Sports soccer facility in Tukwila Dec. 14-15 with four of them bringing home cup titles.
The Harbor Youth Soccer Club’s under 14 boys Falcons, under 16 girls Crushers, under 18-19 boys Harbor United and the Montesano Youth Soccer Club’s under 15 girls Bulldogs all won two games during the weekend to take home state Recreation Cups. The HYSC’s under 13 boys Dragons lost a tight semifinal match on penalty kicks 7-8 on Dec. 14.
It was the best showing ever for Grays Harbor soccer teams in the Recreational Cup, said Alfie Bensinger, HYSC president.
“I’m so proud of the accomplishments of these girls on and off the field,” said Ben Winkelman, incoming Hoquiam mayor and assistant coach of the under 16 girls Crushers.
“I think all of our faces still hurt from smiling so much since the championship game (Dec. 15),” said Winkelman whose daughters Ellie, 15, and Maci, 13, played for the team.
“With the performance of Grays Harbor teams, we should have some pretty amazing middle school and high school teams in the next few years,” he added.
Bensinger helped organize local recreational soccer in the 1980s and said the youth league is important for developing players for local high school programs.
“If you look at the high school records, Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Montesano in years past, I think you’ll see they’ve been successful and a big part of that is a good youth program,” he said. Bensinger was the first soccer coach at Aberdeen High School and is currently the boys junior varsity coach.
HYSC, part of the Grays Harbor Foothills Youth Soccer Association, had 40 teams this fall for players between the ages of seven and 18 and six teams for players 5 and 6 years old, more than 400 players total, according to Bensinger. Eleven of the club’s teams competed in the Recreational Cup tournament, which started in November, he said.
Teams that were playing in the tournament continued to practice twice a week after the end of the regular season in October, said Jessica Giffin, mother of a player on HYSC’s under 14 Falcons.
Parents made the drive to Tukwila early or stayed at hotels the night before to make 8:30 a.m. start times for some of the semifinal games, she said. Winning teams were rewarded by playing the final game on the same day after a little rest, she added.
The site for the recreation cup’s final weekend, Starfire Sports, is where Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders practice. Self-described as “54 acres of soccer heaven” on their website, few of the kids who got to play on one of their 14 full-size fields would disagree, according to Bensinger.
“Playing there is like the World Cup to them. Seeing their faces as they came off the field — you can see how much it means to them,” he said.
Talking about the Montesano Youth Soccer Club’s under 15 girls Bulldogs, Charles Fairborn, president of the club, said: “The girls were beyond thrilled just to be up there with the top teams in the state.”
“At the end, the girls were able to lift the trophy for the title. As a team, you can’t ask for a better group of kids,” Fairborn said.
There are no tryouts for youth recreation soccer. If you sign up, you make the team, Bensinger explained. All players play at least half of each game regardless of their skill level. There are unlimited substitutions in youth soccer to make that possible, he said.
“The success of the program is due to the commitment of the volunteers, coaches and the number of parents that are involved,” according to Bensinger. “All of the coaches are volunteers,” he added.
Parents can sign up their children for the 2020 spring season at the beginning of January, Bensinger said. The spring season runs from the beginning of March until just before Memorial Day.
More information about the HYSC can be found online at www.harborsoccer.com.