Sounders Women going for national championship this weekend

Federal Way High School grad Justi Baumgardt and the Seattle Sounders Women will play in the W-League
Federal Way High School grad Justi Baumgardt and the Seattle Sounders Women will play in the W-League's Final Four starting Friday at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. The Sounders will take on the Ottawa Fury at 7 p.m.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Seattle Sounders

The Seattle Sounders Women will shoot for a national championship this weekend with a lot of assistance from Federal Way.

The Sounders Women, along with the Atlanta Silverbacks, Vancouver Whitecaps and Ottawa Fury, are playing in the United Soccer Leagues W-League’s Final Four at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.

The tournament kicked off Friday with Atlanta taking on Vancouver, and the Sounders and Ottawa Fury followed (after press time). The national championship game will be played at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 31.

“This is huge for the community,” said Sounder midfielder and Federal Way High School grad Justi Baumgardt-Yamada. “It’s great for all the little girls out there playing to have female role models that they can come out and watch. It’s great to have females and not just males to look up to.”

The Sounders’ roster includes three players with ties to Federal Way, including the best female soccer player to ever take the field in the city — Baumgardt-Yamada. The Sounders also feature current Oregon State midfielder Megan Miller and Seattle University defender Jordan Salisbury. Both Miller and Salisbury are graduates of Todd Beamer High School.

Baumgardt-Yamada leads the team with four assists, and Miller and Salisbury have also been key contributors. Miller has played in nine games and has four shots on goal, and Salisbury has played eight games on defense.

The team is coached by Federal Way High School grad Leighton O’Brien, a former United Soccer Leagues (USL) MVP with the Seattle Sounders. O’Brien played 10 years of professional soccer. He also has coached youth teams since 2002, and has been the Director of Coaching for Greater Renton FC since 2006.

The first and longest-standing women’s soccer league in North America, the W-League is USL’s highest level of women’s soccer in the United States and Canada. The 2011 USL W-League campaign will feature 27 teams in three regional conferences playing 14 regular season matches. In addition to featuring international and professional stars, elite amateur players have the opportunity to compete on amateur teams in the league while maintaining their collegiate eligibility.

The Seattle Sounders Women’s team was founded in 2001 and is now competing in its 11th season. The Sounders Women have had great success over the years, making it to the USL W-League Semi-Finals in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Baumgardt-Yamada was a four-year starter for Federal Way from 1989 through 1992. During her tenure, she was named to the All-South Puget Sound League’s first team in all four seasons, led the Eagles to a pair of state championships, as well as a second-place finish her sophomore year. She helped the Eagles finish both seasons as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation by USA Today.

Her senior season, Baumgardt-Yamada was named KOMO-4 News’ female athlete of the year, a Parade Magazine All-American and was the No. 1 girls’ soccer recruit in the nation. She holds records at Federal Way for goals (98) and assists (50).

After graduating from Federal Way, Baumgardt-Yamada went on to be a member of the U.S. National Team from 1993 through 1999 and played in several major tournaments with Team USA. She also played four years at the University of Portland and was a three-time All-American, made three Final Four appearances and played in one national championship.

Following her career at the University of Portland, Baumgardt-Yamada was drafted into the WUSA women’s professional soccer league by the Washington Freedom. She spent three years in the league before it folded playing with both the Freedom and the New York Power.

Both Miller and Salisbury were All-South Puget Sound League and All-State selections during their time at Beamer. Miller will be a junior in the fall at Oregon State and Salisbury will be playing her senior year at Seattle U.

The W-League’s Final Four includes the Eastern Conference champions from Atlanta, Central Conference champs Ottawa, and Vancouver, the Western Conference champions. The Sounders got an automatic berth for hosting the event. Tickets to the event are $10 for adults, and kids 10 and under get in free.

“It’s actually really cool, especially for young soccer players in this area, who really look up to the Sounders women,” Miller said. “It’s going to be really intense and I’m really stoked that we can be in it."

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