Zole Carbone // Photo courtesy Western Athletics
By Conor Wilson
Despite the possibility of an NCAA championship for women’s soccer this fall, one player cannot wait for next season.
While the Western women’s soccer team prepares for its third-round NCAA tournament match-up on Dec. 5, Sehome High School soccer player Zola Carbone waits in anticipation for her time in a Western uniform.
The left-footed striker and Bellingham native will reunite with her club coaches, Travis Connell and Jamie Arthurs, as one of the seven high school players who signed national letters of intent to play for the Vikings next fall.
“Since I’ve lived here and grown up in Bellingham, [Western’s] always been like my next-door college, and going there is so exciting,” Carbone said. “I already know the town, I love coach Travis, he’s my club coach right now, so to have the familiarity with the staff was really compelling.”
Carbone said she considered offers from Seattle Pacific University, and several Division III schools, but said she ultimately decided on Western for the school’s reputation, closeness to family and for coach Connell – who she said is the best coach she’s ever had.
Of the seven incoming freshmen, Carbone is the lone forward of the group, but according to Sehome High School coach Andria Fountain, versatility is one of Carbone’s unique strengths.
“I’ll play her at forward a little bit, especially if we need some firepower and try to get a goal,” Fountain said. “My center back, every once and awhile,has a bad ankle. If she gets hurt, then I put Zola [Carbone] back there [as] the last line of defense.”
Although Sehome’s league does not keep track of individual goals scored, coach Fountain said Carbone is the team’s leading scorer and likely the leading scorer for the league.
“When she came to my program, she was pretty much a defender, so it’s been over these last four years that she’s kind of transitioned more into the offense,” Fountain said. “The other thing that makes her a challenge for a lot of people is she’s left footed and she’s got a wicked shot. It can be straight on and it’s so hard and so fast that even if [goalkeepers] are waiting for it, they won’t be able to get it.”
In her last two seasons at Sehome, Carbone has led the team to a 25-1-0 record in conference play, according the Northwest Conference Athletics website — including a runner-up finish in the 2A Washington Interscholastic Activities Association state tournament her junior year.
“She has a really good work ethic. She shows up to practice every day. She’s really good, but she doesn’t act like she’s really good, she’s just very humble,” Fountain said. “She takes charge and [the team] they just follow. She kind of has that personality like, ‘hey we need to do this.’”
Fountain said she is not sure where Carbone will fit into the team’s lineup, but both Fountain and Connell commented on Carbon’s quickness and strength as contributing factors to her success.
“Zola [Carbone] uses a unique blend of speed, strength and determination to wreak havoc on defenses,” Connell said in a statement to Western Athletics. “She is a fantastic ball striker that will create goal scoring chances for her and her teammates.”
Although Sehome lost to Port Angeles in the round of 16 for this year’s state tournament, The Lynden Tribune named Carbone the league’s offensive MVP.
“That was really cool and special because it just shows how much all my hard work has finally paid off,” Carbone said. “There has been some natural ability that comes with it, but definitely a lot of hard work and going to practice every day, every week, going to all the games. It’s all worked out.”
With her high school career over, Carbone said she will play her final club season with Connell and the Whatcom FC Rangers before reporting for team camp in August.
“I trained with [Western], so I met a few [players] and they’re all so nice, and I love being on a team like that,” Carbone said. “I definitely want to make a big impact on the team, especially my first year, coming in and come in hot. It’ll be big shoes to fill because the seniors are leaving, especially because a lot of them are big goal scorers.”