Forza of Washington won the 2008 USASA Women's Over-30 Championship on Aug. 10.
They defeated the United German Hungarians (Pa.), 3-0, for the title after a 7-0 win over the Houston Challengers in the semifinal. This is Forza’s fourth title, all since 2001.
Before this weekend is out, Seattle may lay claim to the hottest soccer moms in the nation.
Forza’s over-30 team is going after its fourth national championship in the last seven years, and is doing so at home. Starfire Sports Complex is the site of the U.S. Adult Soccer Association finals for eight men’s and women’s divisions beginning Friday.
The only local team to earn a berth in the finals is Forza, which meets the Texas Challengers at 6 p.m. Friday. In the other semifinal, Pennsylvania’s United German Hungarian meets Missouri’s J.B. Marine. The cup final is 9 a.m. Sunday.
No matter what time of day, there promises to be a sizable contingent of pro-Forza fans along the sideline, most of them referring to their favorite player as ‘Mom.’
“Between all of us, there’s probably around 20 kids,” says Julie Woodward. “Not to brag, but I win the team title with four, alone.”
More Than Just Moms
Like many soccer moms, Woodward, 37, is multi-tasking these days. In addition to family life, she’s gearing up for her 12th season as Seattle University’s coach.
Emily Hiatt, a force in the Forza midfield, also wears many hats.
In addition to her on-field playmaker and off-field mothering roles, she’s the team manager and sometimes the coach. However, she’s yielding the latter mantle to her husband, Eric, this time around. Eric Hiatt was also coach for two of the three previous championship years.
Emily and Eric both played at Santa Clara, where they met. Along with Brandi Chastain, she was part of the Broncos’ first two NCAA semifinal teams, and he was on the school’s NCAA co-championship team in 1989.
A Puget Sound native, Emily played for FC Royals as a youth, and following her return to the area, she joined Forza in 1998. Now 38, she is optimistic that the team can reclaim the title it last won in 2005.
“We’ve won in Dallas, Philadelphia and Orlando, and winning it here would be really nice,” Hiatt says. “And we’re happy to be playing Texas, because that’s the team that we lost to in the finals two years ago.”
Come Back Later; Having a Baby
A number of factors can affect the championship chances of a team such as Forza. Hiatt says it helps to have a mix of experience and younger thirtysomethings, those who can inject extra energy.
And sometimes other activities take precedence. Woodward says that hopes of a repeat title in ’06 were in conflict with several biological clocks. Put simply: “We had too many pregnant women.”
With careers and kids, it’s not easy for the women to focus on Forza. Unless it’s the national finals, that is.
“A lot of us like working out, but to win it and do it here would make it all the more enjoyable,” says Woodward. “For a few of us, this might be it, so everybody’s making that extra push. We want to go out on top.”
“We all have busy lives, so for most of the year everyone trains on their own,” Hiatt says. “But for the three weeks leading up to these tournaments, people are committed, and we schedule several games a week to get ready.”
Kids: Watch & Learn
Forza features a strong cast of former college and Sounders players, ranging in age from early 30s to early 40s. Some have known and played with one another for many years.
In the run-up to nationals, they played current collegians as well as premier level U17 and U18 clubs.
“It’s very competitive. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose but most of the games are very close,” she says. The opposition tends to exploit their athleticism and fitness level. Forza players use their heads.
“We definitely do less running and let the ball do the work. We play smarter. There’s a lot more thinking involved.
“I think the younger players learn from that, from playing a team with experience,” Hiatt says.
So far, the added preparation has paid off. Forza’s run through regionals in May was punctuated by a 5-0 pounding of AZ Premier, the home side, in Scottsdale.
With the final rounds being played at home, Hiatt, Woodward and the rest of the Forza moms will be able to make a tackle, take a shot or thread a through pass knowing that the most impressionable spectators will embrace them, win, lose or draw.
“The kids all love coming to the games and being in a fun environment,” says Woodward. “But one of the great things is they get to see women out there playing and having fun themselves.” And that’s a good thing.