Sometimes, all it takes is a step back to make a leap forward – and that’s what the Spokane Shadow women’s first team has done after taking a season off in 2018.
After refocusing and moving up into the more competitive Women’s Premier Soccer League, the Shadow play their first game on Saturday at Spokane Falls Community College at noon against Vancouver Island FC. It’s their first of four home games, all at SFCC.
The Shadow won the Northwest Premier League title in 2016 and reached the semifinals in 2017 before they wanted to push toward the WPSL. But the jump from the NWPL required more planning and more funding.
After a year of organizing and fundraising, the team reached the goal. With support from Jim Wilson, president and CEO of Northern Capital Management, the Shadow found themselves in the same league as the Seattle Sounders Women. The Sounders have helped mold some of the United States’ top national team players, including Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo and Sydney LeRoux.
“We have not seen any games at this level, much less played against any teams at this level, so this first year we are really looking to compete each time out,” Shadow coach Kevin Moon said. “We have the opportunity to play against the defending national champions in our conference, the Seattle Sounders Women. I do know it will be a step up. We do have a lot of brand-new players. It is a learning process this year.”
Moon, who has been involved with the Shadow in some capacity since 2000, encourages fans to attend and see a team peppered with local talent. Every player on the roster for the opener either went to high school in Spokane, or played collegiate soccer in Washington, Idaho or Montana.
“Come support your local team,” Moon said. “There are no other amateur women’s team in our community, so this is the one. If young players who are looking to get to the next level – not just our team, but our opponents – it is a fantastic opportunity to see different levels of soccer right here.”
One such local player is defender Grace Hancock, who was instrumental to Washington State’s success in past seasons. She’s from Boise and wanted to continue to train this summer in Spokane as she works toward higher goals.
“The Shadow has been very generous in letting me train with them and play with them and be a part of a great team and a great community, really,” Hancock said. “The whole club has been very welcoming and supportive.”
But the Shadow are at a disadvantage this season. With an almost-new roster and a short window of only two weeks to practice as a complete team, the first game will be a test of how quickly the team can build its chemistry.
“The first key is to integrate each player quickly and successfully,” Hancock said. “That really just means letting players be who they are on the field and work as a teammate. It is a team sport. You can’t play as 11 individuals on a field, you have to play as one large unit.”
Each game will help build a foundation for future Shadow teams in the WPSL, even if the results don’t fall their way.
“We also want to improve each game – there are going to be ups and downs – because it is hard to throw together a team in the summer,” Hancock said.
The excitement level is making Hancock antsy. She just wants to play against someone who isn’t wearing Shadow colors.
Attending the game is free, thanks to Northern Capital Management, and fans can expect to be a part of total fan experience. Promotions will include free mini soccer balls to kids and free pizza at some point this season.
The show on the field should be worth the trip. The WPSL is the second level of women’s soccer in the U.S. and it is also the largest women’s soccer league in the world in terms club numbers (119).
“These women are working and carrying on jobs and having a normal life, but also pursuing elite athleticism and playing at a really high level,” Hancock said. “I think we have a really high level that we are capable of reaching throughout the season. Spectators would be rewarded with seeing the progression of high-quality soccer.”
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