For more than three years, Emily Rader has made regular weekday commutes to and from Seattle.
The 300-mile round-trips congest her schedule and make it tough to keep up in school — finishing her homework on the long drive back to Wenatchee by dome light isn’t uncommon.
But the long rides, most of which her mother, Laura Rader, drives, are worthwhile. Except for the fall season, when she competes with the Wenatchee girls soccer team, Emily Rader plays for the Northwest Nationals G95 Red team, a U18 girls squad that competes in the top division in Washington’s Regional Club League. That has provided her with a series of advantages that’s lifted her level of play on the field and bolstered her prospects of playing at the collegiate level.
Rader’s play, in turn, has helped elevate Wenatchee as it seeks its first state berth in school history. The senior holds the school record for 10 goals in a season with three games left in the regular season. Wenatchee (8-3-1 overall, 6-1 Big Nine) sits in second place in the league and has had more success in 2013 than it has in several years.
There’s plenty of praise to pass around for the winning season, but Rader’s aggressive play is a big chunk of the equation.
“She’s an invaluable player for us, and will be highly missed next year,” first-year coach John Springer said.
The fourth-year varsity player has a fluid set of abilities that make her an asset on the field, no matter where she plays.
Springer usually lines Rader up as an attacker to generate offense for Wenatchee, but has shuffled her into just about every position on the field. Although Rader’s more accustomed to leading the attack for the Panthers, she spends her time on the field with the Northwest Nationals thwarting it.
“It speaks to her flexibility, certainly,” Springer said. “I’ve moved her all over the place. I’ve played her at forward, midfield, defense, kind of wherever and whenever we need her in certain spots, and she never flinches. She just jumps right in to the next position and seems comfortable playing anywhere on the field.”
Rader caught the former Northwest Nationals head coach’s attention in the spring of 2011. Rader, then a freshman, played for Columbia Basin United, another Regional Club League squad. Columbia Basin United was set for a match against Northwest Nationals when one of Rader’s teammates, a starting defender, tore a knee ligament. Rader’s coach moved her to play center back for the first time in her career. She played well in the new position and earned a tryout invitation from the Northwest Nationals. Since then, she’s developed her overall abilities and understanding of the game.
“I play defender in club, so it’s actually really helpful to know what the defenders are thinking when you’re attacking them,” the 17-year-old said. “When they’re defending, I just picture what would I do and what’s really hard for me when the attacker’s attacking me.”
Rader’s ability to shift seamlessly up and down the field is a trait found in several elite players competing in competitive soccer leagues. Scott Newman, the second-year head coach for G95 Red, said several of Rader’s teammates have made similar transitions.
But Rader has a few traits that make her a unique asset on the pitch.
”As a player, there’s a couple things that really stand out about Emily more than anything else,” Newman said. “No. 1 is her tenacity, her desire to compete. She never gives up, she never backs down. That’s what stands out the most about her.”
Her vast experience playing at the club level gives her a sizable advantage over most of her high school peers. The competitive level of play has polished her technique, ball control and tactical awareness.
Rader’s also shown intangibles that make her a staple for the Panthers. The pithy attacker showed up for just about every summer practice session during the offseason, despite making the commute to Seattle. During those sessions, in which freshmen are indoctrinated into the program, Rader was quick in welcoming new players and gelling the team. Rader infuses the team with an easy-going yet focused demeanor. It becomes quickly apparent when Rader isn’t around, Springer said.
“She has the unique ability to make teammates feel comfortable around her,” Springer said.
The end to the manic commutes is in sight. Rader has a list of collegiate programs interested in bringing her aboard for the 2014 season. While she has club soccer to thank for her future as a collegiate athlete, Rader has more than enough to keep her busy at home.
“There’s no plaque under Wenatchee girls soccer in the gym,” Rader said, referring to the dearth of postseason success. “Every other sport has one but girls soccer. That’s going to change.”