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Press Coverage

Women's semi-pro soccer:
Marin standouts ready to catch the Wave as high-level league expands

Marin IJ - by Nish Budhraja - May 27, 2010 - Read Original Article

GO OUT to the Redwood High soccer field on a Tuesday afternoon and you will see a group of women dressed in nondescript jerseys, playing what looks to be a game of pickup soccer.

If you take the time to look closer, you will see a blisteringly fast pace of play, quick ball movement and ardent communication, all signs of a high level of competition and experience.

Look further still and you will find former Tam High standout and current Boston College starter Alicia Blose chasing down a lobbed through ball. Or maybe you will see current Branson player and future University of North Carolina defender Kelly McFarlane making a gritty tackle. Survey the field and you will find players from Stanford, women from the Jamaican and Australian national teams, and veteran coach Luis Quezada pacing the sidelines.

This is no pickup game. This is the North Bay Wave FC.

The team itself is a member of the Women's Premier Soccer League, a semi-professional organization that acts as a pipeline to Women's Professional Soccer, the highest level of national competition for pro women's soccer. The players hail from either the best collegiate soccer teams in the country or some level of national team play. Quezada has brought them together, and now plans to bring an unprecedented level of women's soccer to Marin.

"I think that we have an incredible opportunity here," Quezada said. "The time is right in Marin County to showcase some incredible players over a long period of time. It will be something the community will grab onto, something that our players can aspire to. It will make high level soccer something that's real."

"High level soccer" is what helped establish the market for the North Bay Wave, Marin's first and only semi-professional soccer team, in the first place. Quezada, who started coaching in Marin in 1987, has seen the interest in soccer, particularly at younger age levels, increase exponentially over the past two decades. It was this increase in interest, coupled with the efforts of youth coaches like Quezada, that opened the door for high levels of youth soccer to be established locally.

"If we had tried to do this ten years ago it wouldn't have worked," Quezada said. "But now there are a bunch of very talented players from Marin and it gives them a great opportunity to go full-circle (with their soccer careers)."

In fact, it was the willingness of the former Marin players to come back that not only convinced Quezada to create the team, but also to make it, as the famous Barcelona Futbol Club saying goes, "m s que un club" or "more than a team." The team's local contingent, which includes players like Blose and McFarlane, are with the team to improve their game for the college season, no doubt. But they are also there because they grew up learning soccer in a receptive environment, and want to continue that legacy.

"Mill Valley and Marin in general have always been very supportive of soccer," said Blose, who grew up in the Southern Marin town. "Hopefully we can get clinics and camps going for kids (in Marin) to show them that there are higher levels of soccer."

This, it appears, is absolutely part of the plan.

"Working with a lot of youth clubs, supporting youth sports in Marin this is one of the primary goals of the team," said team manager Birgit Byers. "We want to be able to inspire the youth to reach for their goals, and we're holding quite a few clinics and fundraisers as a team."

The team's community involvement does not stop at youth leagues. The North Bay Wave played their first game last Sunday, beating the Sacramento Pride 4-0 at Drake High. They played in honor of Dirk Denny, who died earlier this year while surfing, with all proceeds from the game going to the foundation in his name. In addition, Quezada estimates that anywhere from 20-50 percent of the proceeds of each game the Wave plays will go back to the community in some manner.

"You know, there's about 19,000 youth that play soccer in District 5 (which includes Marin) and out of that 19,000 we have about 10 kids, if that, every year who make it to a collegiate arena," Quezada said. "So we have an opportunity to really bring some elite women back home to be great role models for our youth. It's a great opportunity and it's just going to get better."

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