FC Alliance girls team wins International Tournament
In soccer, there's nothing more dramatic than a game that's decided by penalty kicks — when each team sends five players to the 12-yard line, to kick one-on-one against the opposing goalkeeper.
FC Alliance's Donosti Cup Team Members
Players: Maria Zahajko, Meghan Tveit, Erin Edmonds, Rachael Moulton, Alexa Iacolucci, Alicia Barker, Kristen Barclay, Sophia Viviano, Careena Alaoui, Sierra Utton, Sara Christensen, Kat Deboodt, Ciara DeGraff, Elizabeth Holmdahl, Jordan Lemieux; Coach: Alex Zahajko
But, how's this for soccer drama? You are 14 years old and your game goes to penalty kicks … in a foreign country … in a 40,000-seat stadium … against the hometown favorite?
That's exactly what happened to FC Alliance premier soccer club coach Alex Zahajko and his team of girls from the Woodinville area, who traveled to San Sebastian, Spain, to compete in this year's international 21st Annual Donosti Cup.
Featuring boys' and girls' teams from across the globe, the Donosti Cup is one of the largest youth soccer events in Europe. This year's tournament, held July 1-7 in and around the Basque city of San Sebastian, featured 387 teams and nearly 7,500 players, representing five continents and 23 countries.
Participation in the Donosti Cup was exciting from the opening ceremonies. The FC Alliance girls mingled with 10,000 youth soccer players and their families from all over the world, waving the American flag with gusto.
It was in the semi-final game, though, where the magnitude of the setting truly became real.
Facing the hometown favorite, Atletico Madrid, FC Alliance managed to take the game to penalty kicks, setting up the dramatic, pressure-packed finish described earlier. FC Alliance goalkeeper Kristen Barclay, however, didn't crack, blocking three of Atletico Madrid's kicks to carry FC Alliance to the win in true "dream come true" fashion.
The following day's final, by comparison, was much less dramatic, if not equally satisfying: a 3-0 win over Tolosa FC to give the FC Alliance girls the victory in the Under-14 girls age group.
Although the dream tournament was over, and Zahajko and the girls returned to Washington, the memories will never be forgotten — memories made possible by the effort of FC Alliance families, who did an intense two years of fund-raising in order to pay for the international travel.
Was the hard work worth it?
"Oh, yes," Zahajko says. "I heartily recommend the international travel experience to other teams."
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And if you want to see more about how FC Alliance's U13G B Team kill time when they're on the road, check out this video: