On May 26, the Rogers Unified Soccer team captured third place in the state tournament in Puyallup.
“The Pirates played three games to secure third place,” said coach Heather Davis. “With a roster of 10 students, the team traveled to Puyallup for the double-elimination tournament for the first time in Rogers Unified Soccer history.”
Unified Sports is a program sponsored by Special Olympics Washington and is dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences. Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.
“A lot of people think you should be able notice which kids are special needs (students) but Unified Soccer is all about just giving kids an opportunity to play who may not be able to otherwise,” Davis said.
Last week team members were still basking in the glow of their tournament experience.
Defender Max Yates, 18, said his favorite moment was “when I saved the ball.”
Then he laughed, adding, “When I caught the ball, I liked that, too.”
Apparently, while near the goal, he accidentally caught the ball in the crook of his arm and stood there bemused while the coaches hollered “Hand ball.”
Wayne Allie and Mario Reyes split time in the goal, Allie making five saves and Reyes six.
“I got some good saves,” Allie said.
He said he likes playing goalie because he doesn’t have to move around as much.
“Just when I dive for the ball and block it.”
Teammate Bryan Vialpando pointed out the dangers of getting kicked in the head while in the goal.
“Once I did get kicked in the head,” Allie said, “but I kept playing.”
Goals were scored by Hailey Hooks, Patrick Whiteside, Lizzy Case, Wayne Allie and Mario Reyes in the three-game tournament.
Coach Mike Duke said Reyes scored with less than 10 seconds remaining in the last game of the tournament.
Hooks, who plays on the Pirates’ girls varsity team, said this was her first season on the Unified team.
“The coaches made it fun,” she said. “We really bonded. We are a tribe!”
Fellow varsity teammate Kelby Ball agreed.
“Everyone comes out and gives their best, and everyone is super supportive,” she said.
That support is what Alex Scuthfield appreciates.
“I played Unified Basketball, too,” he said. “We’re all so connected. It’s not just one person with the ball – everyone gets a turn. Everyone is willing to have fun, and it brings the whole community together.”
Davis said during the pep talk before the final game of the tournament, Scuthfield made a reference to teammate Whiteside’s cleats that had fallen apart at the toe in the first game. Whiteside’s shoe had been taped multiple times with a combination of athletic tape and electrical tape.
“Alex said, ‘Guys look at his shoe – it represents us at Rogers. Even when things fall apart, we find whatever it takes to put it back together and play on,’ ” Davis recalled.
That positive attitude was echoed on the other side of the field, as well.
“When we scored on Ballard, their goalie would cheer for us,” Duke said. “Then the goalie called for a group hug after their defeat.”
He shrugged and said, “That really sums up Unified Sports best. You rarely walk away from a Unified event with a dry eye.”
Player Bryan Vialpando isn’t resting on his laurels. He’s straightforward about his love of the game and about his hopes for next season
“It’s something I’m good at. I get the ball where it needs to be,” he said. “I’m playing next year, and I’m bringing home the gold.”