By Tom Rohrer
Specialization has replaced participation in youth athletics and high school teams are no longer littered with well-rounded players.
In the case of Hoquiam’s Ellie Quercia, playing three sports isn’t a choice, but rather an obligation.
The soon to be senior, and returning 1st team All-Evergreen (1A) forward for the Grizzlies soccer team, dons the maroon and gray from August to May. Following her run with the soccer team, Quercia joins the Grizzly basketball team. In the spring, she transitions from hoops to fast pitch.
While she has faced the pressure to focus on soccer and soccer alone, Quercia would miss her wide collection of teammates far too much.
“People told me I had to focus and zero in on one [sport]. But at a school like Hoquiam everyone is close. I don’t feel like I can leave my other teams,” she said. “It would be too hard for me to let go of. I don’t think I could quit.”
Now entering her 14th year of playing soccer, Quercia is hoping to further leave her mark on the HHS soccer program.
“Every year I’ve wanted to get better and better and it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point,” she said. “Last year we had to transition a lot of new girls at the beginning, but towards the end of the season we really started clicking. If we can carry over that momentum, we could do something special here.”
A member of the Grizzly varsity team since her freshmen season, Quercia is having a hard time believing the 2014 season will be her last at the high school level.
“It’s scary, exciting, unbelievable – all of that,” she said. “What I’m hoping for is to hang on to soccer. I want to always have it in my life.”
Quercia has been in discussions with the coaching staffs at Lower Columbia Community College and Lincoln Memorial University inTennessee about playing next season. The possibility of a college career is an exciting prospect for Quercia.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “That has always been a goal for me.”
Two years ago, Quercia decided she would focus on earning the opportunity to play soccer at the collegiate level, rather than in fast pitch or softball. For the last two seasons Quercia has played for the Puget Sound Slammers where she has picked up new skills to carry over to Hoquiam.
“Club is fun but competitive, and that’s a great balance,” she said. “You’re surrounded by others who all have that same goal of continuing to play at the next level. You pick up tricks, new techniques, all of that. It’s been huge for me.”
Like all high-caliber high school athletes, Quercia has seen her leadership role increase over the years. The lessons she continues to pass down were presented to her as an underclassman.
“When you’re a freshmen, you want to absorb everything the older girls tell you,” said Quercia. “I had that and it helped. So I know if I [have the same role] it will help the younger girls and our team.”
When she first began playing at age 4, the Oregon town in which she lived in did not have an all-girls team for Quercia to play on. She would play an age group older and on co-ed teams throughout elementary and middle school. Years later when her family moved to Ocean Shore, she played with her older brother Owen on an 8th grade co-ed team.
“I was always playing up, playing with the boys,” she said. “That was normal, and I never really thought anything of it.”
Soccer has continued to give Quercia the space and freedom to be creative in an athletic fashion. She noticed the effect the game had on her from the first time she stepped on the pitch.
An accomplished scorer and playmaker, Quercia shapes her game to the needs of the team and what it will take to earn a victory.
“I mix it up when I need to. If we need a point? I can go try myself,” she said. “If I’m pressured or someone else is in a better spot, then I’ll set them up.”
“I’ve always wanted to do what’s best for the team.”
Along with her teammates and the stiff Evergreen competition, Quercia will miss the support she has received from the close-knit academic and surrounding Hoquiam community.
“There’s a lot of support from teachers, students, family members, friends,” she said. “Everyone is there to help you. If [teachers] know you’re a good student, they understand if you have a game or practice. It’s very comfortable.”
Attending college can take a young adult out of their comfort zone. Before that day, Quercia is focusing on taking care of business on the soccer field.
“There’s so much to focus on now that I can’t get too caught up in the future,” she said. “Right now, it’s about scoring goals and getting wins.”