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Two Washington Youth Soccer Players
Named Semi-Finalists in 2011 Inspireum Soccer Awards

Your votes can help a deserving local player share in up to $25,000 in scholarships!

To succeed on the pitch, a soccer player must have talent, intelligence, toughness and — perhaps more than anything — heart. It is the last of these qualities that the Inspireum Soccer Awards will honor next month when they announce the winners of this year's awards, who will share $25,000 of academic scholarships provided by the Trusted Sports Foundation.

Among the 50 semi-finalists announced in November were two players from Washington Youth Soccer — Mukilteo's Lauren Luke, and Spokane's Shannon McFaul. Players were nominated by their peers (friends, parents, coaches, teammates) and the list of semi-finalists was selected by a prestigious panel of soccer and media figures, including former U.S. National Team coaches Steve Sampson and April Heinrichs, and legendary play-by-play commentator Andres Cantor.

Twelve finalists, picked via a combination of panel input and online fan voting, will be announced Dec. 13, with winners — including a winner, two runners-up and three "Fan Favorites," the latter picked entirely by fan voting — announced Jan. 3 and recognized at the NSCAA Convention in Kansas City on Jan. 14.

Fan voting is currently open, and continues through Dec. 13.

"Through these awards, we hope to show young athletes that we value their character and ability to inspire as highly as we regard their athletic talent," Sampson says. "We're leveraging the power of soccer to motivate players, teams and communities to enable more youth to play so that no kids are left on the sidelines."

A senior at Kamiak High School and midfielder for Washington Rush '93 Nike, Lauren Luke was nominated by her adoptive family in recognition of her positive spirit and inspirational outlook, despite a challenging childhood in which she bounced between five different foster homes before being adopted. According to her nomination, Luke has inspired her family, fellow students and teammates with her "tremendous character and courage," which she will take to a Division-I college in 2012.

Shannon McFaul has likewise proved an inspiration to those around her, having overcome years of treatment and surgeries for a rare medical condition.

A Spokane Shadow player since the fifth grade, McFaul was born without six permanent teeth — a condition affecting fewer than 0.5 percent of Americans. Between February of 2010 and April of 2011, McFaul endured several grueling surgeries, requiring orthodontists to drill posts deep into her jaw to support artificial teeth. Not only did McFaul push through the surgeries, she continued to play for her club and high school teams, and many of her teammates were not even aware of what she was enduring.

"Shannon is a skilled player, but not a star.  Rather, she is the teammate who works extremely hard and makes everyone around her better," her nomination says. "Her teammates love and respect her, often asking for advice and guidance.  Several adults have asked, 'How can we make sure our daughter grows up to be just like Shannon?'"

Washington Youth Soccer families are encouraged to log on to inspireumsoccerawards.com to learn more about each of these deserving nominees, and cast your vote to help our state's inspirational young players earn a share of $25,000 in scholarships. VOTING CLOSES DEC. 12, SO VOTE TODAY!