Ricci Wiedbrecht took more than a decade off from competitive soccer before returning to action in 2017 with the Olympic Force, now known as the Oly-Pen Force.                                 Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group

Ricci Wiedbrecht took more than a decade off from competitive soccer before returning to action in 2017 with the Olympic Force, now known as the Oly-Pen Force. Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group

Ricci Wiedbrecht made a long journey back to competitive soccer

EAST BREMERTON — After more than a decade away from the pitch, Ricci Wiedbrecht decided a couple of years ago to get back into the game.

Wiedbrecht, a 2004 South Kitsap graduate, had last played high-level soccer as a goal keeper for Tacoma Community College in 2005 before she dusted off her cleats and joined a local indoor rec league. And it wasn’t long before she was plucked from her Tuesday night beer league to play for the Oly-Pen Force — then known as the Olympic Force — in the Northwest Premier League.

“[Force GM] Micah [McMonagle] asked one night,” Wiedbrecht said. “I barely even knew him at the time and he saw me play keeper indoors one day. He heard through the grapevine I wanted to get back into it and he asked me to show up to a practice.”

Before she knew it, Wiedbrecht, a mother of four, was the anchor for a team mostly consisting of college-aged players seeking a little extra playing time during the summer. She often had to find a way to juggle stopping shots and stopping her young ones from wandering off somewhere.

“They were all with me,” Wiedbrecht said. “Every practice, every game, keeping each other herded in the corner trying to not let the little one get away.”

Wiedbrecht quickly proved her talents hadn’t faded with time. In 2017, her first year in the NWPL, she received the Golden Gloves Award given to the top keeper. She recorded four clean sheets for the Force, two more than any other keeper in the league.

She still holds the all-time records for shutouts by a keeper in the NWPL as she picked up her seventh in a recent 8-0 win over Black Hills FC. Not bad for a keeper who, as she puts it, plays “competitive soccer with kids I could parent.”

Wiedbrecht will have to play a little while longer before that comes to fruition — her oldest children are a set of 11-year-old twins — but she did get a reminder of the age gap between her and some of her teammates in that Black Hills match.

One of the Force’s midfielders in that game was Celina Madrid, a junior at South Kitsap where Wiedbrecht now serves as the assistant coach to K-Lee Haynes, who is also her Force teammate.

“It’s definitely a weird transition,” Wiedbrecht said.

Describing herself as the oldest player in the league a smile and a chuckle, Wiedbrecht hadn’t originally planned to play for the Force this season, but was brought in midway through the year for a match against Yakima United when the team found itself without a keeper. She also played in the Force’s tightly-contested 3-2 loss to the Washington Timbers.

As long as she still feels she can play at a high level, it’s unlikely Wiedbrecht will be turning away overtures to suit up from the Force anytime soon.

“I can’t say no, it’s hard for me,” Wiedbrecht said. “I love the game, I’ve played it my whole life.”

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.

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