College Sports

Boulevard Park sunsets and a soccer coach she knew; why would she want to leave home?

Sehome graduate Emily Webster, right and the Western Washington University women’s soccer team face Kuztown in the NCAA Division II national semifinals Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri.
Sehome graduate Emily Webster, right and the Western Washington University women’s soccer team face Kuztown in the NCAA Division II national semifinals Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

After graduating from Sehome High School in 2014, Bellingham native Emily Webster had a wide selection of colleges to choose from when deciding where she would continue her soccer career.

But Webster found every other school fell short compared to Western Washington University when it came down to her favorite thing: the view of the sunsets on the boardwalk by Boulevard Park.

“When I toured other schools, I would always compare it back to Western and say, ‘Well, this isn’t as good as Western,’ ” Webster said. “I loved growing up here.”

As a high school freshman, Webster played on the Sehome team that won the 2010 2A state title and helped lead the Mariners to state twice more in 2012 and ’13. She scored 42 goals during her four-year career and was named second-team Class 2A all-state and first-team All-Northwest Conference as a senior.

Now, the Vikings junior midfielder has helped lead WWU to back-to-back NCAA Division II Final Four appearances – the program’s third trip to the national semifinals in four years. This season, she won two Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Week awards for Sept. 12-18 and Oct. 17-23 and has been a force for the Vikings in the midfield.

Western is playing Kutztown University at 6 p.m. Thursday in Kansas City, Mo., for a chance to play for the national championship on Saturday. The Vikings are unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Webster said she’s feeling mostly excited but also nervous heading into one of the biggest games of her college career. She also said the postseason experience she got at Sehome has helped prepare her for these games.

“When you know you’re playing for everything on the line, it’s a really good experience to have, especially when you hit collegiate soccer and every game counts,” Webster said.

Webster has started all 23 games for Western this year, playing 1,919 minutes. She’s scored three goals, including one on a penalty kick, and has eight assists. She leads the team with 60 corners.

She also started all 24 games as a sophomore, when she scored three goals and had five assists. Webster was voted to the NSCAA NCAA Division II Women’s All-West Region third team, the All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference first team and was selected to the GNAC All-Academic team with a 3.45 GPA as a physical education major. Teammates and coaches selected her the team MVP.

She’s done all that while working for the same man who coached her growing up with the Whatcom FC Rangers, WWU coach Travis Connell – a close second to Boulevard Park sunsets on Webster’s reasons for choosing Western.

Connell said she’s one of the most consistent players he’s coached.

“She’s the kind of player where the longer you watch her, the more you understand how talented she is,” Connell said. “In this day and age of celebrity athletes, she’s the opposite. She’s under the radar and does all the little things really well.”

Webster’s father made a joke when she was in elementary school that she would be able to walk to school from kindergarten to college. She’s the only player on Western’s roster from Bellingham, which she said she forgets sometimes.

“It’s funny, when I’m in a car giving directions to teammates and I’ll stop giving directions, because I forget that people don’t know where they’re going,” Webster said.

She said her teammates ask her for food recommendations or afternoon activates, and it’s fun to give them her local taste of Bellingham.

Webster said she’s thankful for all the support from the community.

“The Bellingham community has been really supportive of me all the way through my career,” Webster said. “It’s been really fun being able to play at Harrington and have my friends and family come and watch the games.”

NCAA Division II women’s soccer Final Four

Site: Swope Park, Kansas City, Mo.

Thursday’s national semifinals

▪ Columbus State (21-2-0) vs. Grand Valley State (22-1-1), 3 p.m.

▪ Western Washington (22-0-1) vs. Kutztown (20-4-0), 6 p.m.

Saturday’s national championship

▪ Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.