Two of Western’s standout soccer players, Sierra Shugarts and Karli White, will be joining the Seattle Sounders Women’s soccer team this summer.
Junior captain and defender Shugarts scored a total of four goals and had one assist during the 2016 National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship season. She said she is hoping to work on her speed and taking light touches on the ball.
“That’s what separates Division I and Division II, as well as little details and finishing your chances,” Shugarts said. “It’ll be a good mental challenge, as well as physical; going against bigger, stronger [and] faster players.”
Sophomore forward and midfielder White, who transferred to Western from Seattle University this spring, played for the Sounders in the summer of 2016. She played a total of three games, scored six goals and had two assists.
“It’s intimidating going into something like that, but at the same time, [Sounders’ head coach Kim Calkins] asked me and Sierra to play for a reason. She obviously sees something in us,” White said. “It’ll teach me how to play with other players, learning other people’s strengths and challenge me to develop the areas of my game that are more weak.”
Shugarts and White are the only Division II players on the Sounders’ roster. The rest of the players are from seven different Division I universities.
The Western women’s head coach Travis Connell said during the summer there’s no substitute for actually playing in games, so this is a great way for them to get ready for the fall season.
“One of the big challenges for fall sports, in general, is coming off of summer break, and all of a sudden, two weeks later, you are playing meaningful games that will determine your seating in the NCAA tournament,” Connell said. “Their offseason workouts, like summer, are critically important to preparing us for early season success.”
Junior defender Malia Maack said Shugarts is a team player and thinks of everyone else on the field.
“She thinks about the big picture and how each person will contribute to the team,” Maack said. “She puts all the puzzle pieces together [with] relationships, friendships and how people work on and off the field.”
Maack said even with the small amount of time White has been playing for Western, she is the playmaker.
“To her, everything is a challenge that’s she’s going to overcome,” Maack said. “[With] the diversity of coming to a new team, she’s not taking it as negativity, she’s taking it as, ‘It’s a challenge. I’m going to make my mark on this.’”
Connell said he hopes Shugarts and White get to play a lot, so their fitness and timing is at mid-season speed at the beginning of the fall season.
He pointed out the positives of playing for a different coach with a different style of play and formation.
“That stuff can only make you better as a soccer player,” Connell said. “It makes you smarter, more versatile and ready for anything. The more perspectives on the game, situations you are exposed to and experiences just makes you a more well-rounded player. And I hope they are able to garnish some of that from this summer.”
Shugarts said it’s definitely intimidating and a lot of pressure because she is one of the only two Division II players that’s going to be on the team.
“I’m looking forward to playing out of my comfort zone and playing against some of the best players that have come out of Washington,” Shugarts said. “It’ll be a good experience for me to grow, and experience what it’s like to play at that next level.”
Their eligibility won’t be affected because the Sounders’ season doesn’t interfere with Western’s spring and fall season. Shugarts and White won’t join the club until spring quarter is finished in early June.
“That’s what’s great about it. It’s a program I can play over the summer, and it won’t affect anything for college, which is nice. But it also gives me, along with the other players, an opportunity to get out what you put in,” White said. “It’s all about how much you put into it and what you want from it.”
The Sounders’ season starts in May and ends in July. Western’s exhibition matches for fall season don’t begin until the middle of August.