Category Archives: NW Collegiate Soccer

Features regarding collegiate soccer in the Pacific Northwest

When Falcons Took Flight

It’s been well over 30 years yet Peter Hattrup remembers rolling into a September 1983 practice.

Hattrup was a sophomore at Seattle Pacific University, and the Falcons were in Atlanta, wrapping up another extended early-season road trip. Having come directly from the airport to Georgia State’s training field, the players and coaches emptied out of their fleet of five shiny, black Lincoln Town Cars.

Trudging off the field following their own practice session, the Georgia State players were slack-jawed, to say the least.

From 1979 to 2000, Seattle Pacific regularly crisscrossed the country in search of games to satisfy NCAA standards.

“One guy said, ‘Damn, you guys travel in style. I thought it was the mafia pulling up,’” recalls Hattrup. “He asked how long we drove; I said we flew. Then he asked where we were staying; I said Peachtree Plaza. He said, ‘S***. You guys fly here and stay at the Plaza!?”

Indeed, for more than two decades SPU was easily the most traveled college soccer program on the planet. In an era when even the biggest D-1 powers were largely confined to the gas tank capacity of a school-issued van, the Falcons regularly crisscrossed the continent at 30,000 feet and drove the interstates in style.

This was no anomaly, no gimmick. Upon his hiring, coach Cliff McCrath was asked to create a national-class program in an area isolated geographically from soccer bastions. Furthermore, McCrath’s program was without a true home field for the first 29 seasons. To become the best requires rigorous tests. So, Seattle Pacific hit the road.

Up, Up and Away

An early season ritual, at first the road trip consisted of a handful of West Coast games. Soon enough, the Falcons took flight and eight dates became the norm, with destinations far, far away. Although 2,700 miles away, Miami was a frequent terminus.

Lincoln’s Town Car was synonymous with Seattle Pacific’s life on the road.

Even in this contemporary age where air travel has become an afterthought, only two in-state programs are slated to step foot inside the Eastern time zone this autumn. Combined, the Washington and Eastern Washington women will play four times. By comparison, during between 1981-94, five times SPU played four or more ET games on a single trip, not to mention other locales.

Continue reading When Falcons Took Flight

The Gifts of Cliff McCrath

Wanted: Someone to supervise 300 kids 24/7 during summer, take 22 rowdy college boys cross-country to win a soccer championship in the fall, marry a couple on Saturday, christen a newborn on Sunday, keynote a corporate speech to hundreds first thing Monday and pull votes for a stadium initiative on Tuesday. Ten fingers not necessary. Sense of humor a must.

Unless your name happens to be Charles Clifford McCrath, there’s no need to apply.

Cliff McCrath often shares company with soccer’s royalty, in this instance Pelé.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, a true treasure of Seattle and soccer, Cliff McCrath, will be inducted into Seattle Pacific University’s Falcon Legends Hall of Fame. McCrath knows the drill. After all, it’s his 10th such enshrinement around the country.

Unlike the others, however, this will be celebrated on his turf, where since arriving 47 years ago he grew to be an outsized figure capable of accomplishing amazing feats for a sport that, at times, struggled to take hold.

Continue reading The Gifts of Cliff McCrath

First, and Creating a Belief That Would Last

When Seattle Pacific soccer alumni of a certain age inevitably gather, there’s no shortage of stories.

From tales of seemingly endless cross-country road trips to innumerable narratives regarding their leader, Uncle Nubby, there is plenty of fodder. And while hundreds of alums experienced final fours and dozens contributed to the Falcons’ five championships, there’s a certain reverence for those who did it first.

Two overtimes? Actually it was three.

By winning the 1978 NCAA Division II championship, SPU set in motion a Puget Sound tidal surge that would extend for more than 15 years and, some would argue, unceasingly to this date.

Upon returning home from Miami in early December of ‘78, Falcons coach Cliff McCrath, a.k.a. Nubby, took fast action on two counts. The first remains the most sensational and storied publicity stunt in our soccer community’s long and distinguished history. The second was to affirm the source of bounty McCrath molded into champions.

It was plain to see that Seattle Pacific was the beneficiary of leadership and coaching throughout Washington youth soccer, so he immediately drafted a letter to the statewide association.

“Eight of the starters came from the area,” McCrath notes. “Effectively, this national championship belonged to them; it was dedicated to them because these were their players.”

Uncle Nubby Did What?

Continue reading First, and Creating a Belief That Would Last

SPU ’78: First & Foremost

Many will dream, some will endeavor, but only one can be the first.

While the Sounders may now place a star above their crest, the side that first planted a flag at the summit in the name of Seattle is now about to be celebrated all over again.

On Feb. 11 Seattle Pacific University will induct the team that not only ushered in an era when the Falcons became the Northwest’s most decorated collegiate program but, more importantly, established a beacon, a belief, that teams from Puget Sound could be the best in the nation.

Wearing mesh jerseys McCrath purchased the night prior, SPU poses with its first treasure.

For nearly the first hundred years of soccer’s existence in Washington, it was a wilderness. Try as they might, to the rest of the land teams from these parts were unfashionable wannabes: Competitive within the region, yet not championship material. In 1978, SPU changed all that.

Simply put, in one muggy, arduous afternoon under a scorching Miami sun, a bunch of shaggy-haired boys under the direction of a seven-fingered coach blazed a trail into the future of Seattle area soccer that generations have followed ever since.

A Formidable Foe

Now as then, the opposition is oft-referenced as the Nigerian junior national team. In truth, Alabama A&M’s roster was only about half-Nigerian. But most of them started and the balance were largely Jamaican. The Bulldogs were defending NCAA Division II champion and ranked No. 7 among all divisions nationally. They would retake the mantle in 1979 and two years later, in 1981, AA&M would be Div. I runners-up.

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Washington’s 2015 Top Team Performances

As daylight dwindles on 2015  and we seal this calendar’s time capsule, why not thumb through the best team performances, and determine which will best prevail against the test of time.

Some Washington sides made some remarkable accomplishments in the past year, and here are the best of the best:

SeattleUnitedlogoSeattle United B98 Copa – In April they defeated Crossfire Premier to become the state’s first Dallas Cup champion, and the boys just kept going, winning the state and regional titles before reaching the USYSA U16 final match in July

imgres-6Seattle Reign – First professional club to win back-to-back regular season league championships, going 13-3-4 in NWSL despite losing Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe to national team duty for the better part of three months

imgres-3Puget Sound women – Despite being eliminated in the Division III second round, the Loggers allowed only three (3) goals in 22 matches and became the state’s first unbeaten (17-0-5) women’s collegiate program Continue reading Washington’s 2015 Top Team Performances

Let’s Play Six (a-Side)

One the morning of Nov. 27, 1985, planes departed from the Midwest, Southern California and the East Coast carrying teams to Tacoma, Wash., for the NAIA Women’s Soccer Championships. They were all flying into what would become the strangest and one of the most controversial national finals in collegiate annals.

It was Thanksgiving Eve and by nightfall over a foot of snow would cover the grass of Baker Stadium on the University of Puget Sound campus. Semifinal games were slated to be played on that field two days later, posing a problem for Mike Jennings.

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NAIA sponsored the first small-college championships for women’s soccer, beginning in 1984. Courtesy Mike Jennings.

It’s not as if Jennings needed more on his plate that Thanksgiving. He was the father of newborn twins earning around $3,000 as the Loggers’ coach. His role as tournament director was voluntary. He was also enrolled in the university’s physical therapy program.

Continue reading Let’s Play Six (a-Side)

Snowbound in Seattle

Generally speaking, most longtime, web-footed residents of Puget Sound know the difference between autumn and winter: right, the rain is colder.

Other climate truths are that snow in the lowlands is uncommon. Still more exceptional are significant accumulations. And rarest phenomena of all are big, pre-Thanksgiving snowstorms followed by a week of sub-freezing temperatures.

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A combination of two snowstorms and eight days of sub-freezing temperatures effectively paralyzed Puget Sound. Courtesy The News Tribune.

Thirty years ago, Washington was bit by just such a perfect storm, plus one more for good measure. And for two local colleges due to host late-round postseason matches, it brought about once-in-a-lifetime experiences for all who took part.

In 1985, Mike Jennings was in his second year as head coach of the University of Puget Sound women’s soccer program. His peers also elected him president of their NAIA coaches association and his Tacoma school was the approved host of the fledgling women’s semifinals and final.

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The Whole Sixteen-Goal Story (Part 4)

Seeking a Silver Lining

Losses teach more lessons than victories, but it was difficult to know where to begin digesting what happened that day in Balboa Park.

For Mike Jones, it had been the perfect storm of adverse conditions. USF was unquestionably the stronger team and a deserving winner. But Washington had played strong Canadian programs such as Victoria and Simon Fraser and proved competitive. Earlier that season, the University of British Columbia had beaten the Dons, 3-1, prompting Jones to believe that on a given day, the Huskies might have earned a result.

“Looking at the two teams, it was probably a 3- or 4-nothing difference with us playing our best,” argues Jones. “Back then, other than the ethnic teams playing Sunday, it was all so new up here in the Northwest. When you got into games with college programs that had a lot of international players, it was hard to get much of the ball. I couldn’t see us scoring against (USF), but I think we could’ve held our own.”

washington_huskies-logo1959 Continue reading The Whole Sixteen-Goal Story (Part 4)

The Whole Sixteen Goal Story (Part 3)

Behemoth by the Bay

Awaiting Washington in the City by the Bay was a team with a history of pummeling the opposition. San Francisco had earned bids in six of the first nine years of the NCAA tournament, and became the first West Coast program to win the championship two years earlier, in 1966.

Under Stephen Negoesco, the Dons were routing foes with regularity. Their savvy international contingent twice scored 10 goals and was averaging 5.5 through the first 10 games. They had leveled 63 shots at Cal.

Boxer_stadium
Balboa Park’s soccer field.

San Francisco was cultured, experienced, rested and playing at home. Coming off a loss to their arch-rival, San Jose State, a few days earlier, they were also in the mood to deliver a beating.

Continue reading The Whole Sixteen Goal Story (Part 3)

The Whole Sixteen Goal Story (Part 2)

A Battle Between Friends

Twice that 1968 season the Huskies had beaten SU by two goals. John Goldingay had scored in each. Beating the Chieftains a third time would not be easy, especially given the stakes.

Seattle U was playing on four days rest after an easy win over Seattle Pacific. Washington would be taking the field for the fourth time in eight days, all away.

It was a damp Monday night at Lower Woodland, the city’s historical home for soccer. Over-use and weather contributed to a well-worn pitch with little, if any, grass remaining.

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Washington soccer action at Husky Stadium, 1968. Courtesy Tyee yearbook, UW Library archives.

While the Huskies featured their fair share of international players, pretty much everyone on both teams was familiar with one another from Sunday games in the state league or past encounters as youth. The coaches were friends as well. Since arriving in the mid-Fifties, Dublin-born Mike Ryan (UW) and Liverpool native Hugh McArdle (SU) were fixtures in the state leagues for years. The soccer community was small and there were few secrets.

Continue reading The Whole Sixteen Goal Story (Part 2)