Chloe Seelhoff and Kate Sprink weren’t allowed to play high school soccer for Glacier Peak as freshmen last season.
Both played on club teams that were part of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy system — the highest level of youth soccer in the nation — which prohibits its players from competing for their high schools.
Ryann Reynolds, too, was facing a similar fate. Though she was only an eighth grader last year when she played on a Development Academy team, Reynolds already was disappointed at the future prospect of not being able to don a Glacier Peak uniform and play for her school.
“I was pretty bummed,” Reynolds said.
But thanks to a recent change, all three players are now able to play for the Grizzlies this fall.
The trio of Glacier Peak underclassmen are playing club soccer this year for Redmond-based Crossfire Premier, which after last season moved its top girls teams out of the Development Academy and into the Elite Clubs National League. Unlike with the Development Academy, there is no high-school soccer restriction for ECNL players.
The three Grizzlies said they are very much enjoying the high-school soccer experience.
“I love it,” Sprink said. “I feel like I’ve made a ton more friends and I’ve just been given different perspectives of coaching.”
“The people are awesome,” Reynolds added. “I love making new friends. It’s just a really cool experience.”
And with the influx of three elite-level players joining the program, this young but talented Grizzlies team is looking to make some noise in Wesco 4A.
Glacier Peak coach Melinda Torre said the newcomers already have elevated the program’s level of play from previous seasons.
“It raises the level of practice,” Torre said. “Our possession is better, the number of passes that we can combine is better and the speed of play gets faster. And it makes everybody else better. Everybody else has to raise their level to get up to them. And I believe that’s what’s happened. … These kids, they’re helping the team fire on all cylinders.”
Glacier Peak is coming off an 8-8-1 season and a fourth-place finish in Wesco 4A. The Grizzlies graduated a pair of All-Wesco 4A players from last year, including leading scorer Haley Grambo.
But with the three former Development Academy players added to a core that includes returning all-league selections Maddie Seelhoff and Neomi MacMillan, hopes are high for the Grizzlies this fall.
And so far, they’ve shown why.
Last week, Glacier Peak (1-0-1) opened the season with a pair of results against teams coming off Class 3A state-playoff appearances. The Grizzlies earned a 1-1 draw with crosstown rival Snohomish and a 4-2 win over returning 3A state quarterfinalist Shorewood.
“This is a pretty special group,” Torre said.
Part of that is because of the talent. The newcomers certainly have made their presence felt in the first two matches, combining for three goals and two assists. Reynolds has had the biggest impact on the stat sheet thus far, netting two goals against Shorewood and providing an assist against Snohomish.
But also part of this team’s special nature, Torre said, is the group’s chemistry.
“They all like each other so much,” she said. “I mean, they were in the back of the bus singing Hannah Montana songs (the other) night. … They want to ride the bus home together. They want to be together. They talk about going and having homework parties after school so they can all go together to do their homework in one place. You don’t get that all the time.”
And for Chloe, there’s also the added bonus of getting to play with her older sister, Maddie.
“It even makes us closer,” Chloe said.
Torre said she’s glad players such as Chloe, Sprink and Reynolds get to experience high-school soccer and all that comes with it.
During her youth, Torre played soccer both in the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program and for her high school. Then after four seasons playing on the University of Washington team and another four years playing professionally in Germany, she coached club soccer before taking over the Glacier Peak girls program when the school opened in 2008.
“There’s something about playing with people from your community and your friends that you just don’t get anywhere else,” Torre said. “And that’s something that unfortunately we’re taking away from these kids (in the Development Academy). … There’s just such a great camaraderie with (high school soccer), because they live in the same area and they go to the same school and they attend the same events.
“I was just really excited that these kids got the opportunity to come back and play.”