Richfield girls soccer team defies the odds, qualifies for international tournament

Watching this team of seventeen girls from Richfield dribble, pass and shoot, it's easy to tell they've been playing soccer together for a long time.

But getting to this point almost didn't happen. Ten years ago, when many of these girls were in elementary school, they wanted to keep playing, but there wasn't a rec soccer league for them past third grade. 

 That's when two moms, Ellen Ruiters and Betsy Lindow, laced up their own cleats, deciding to create and coach a team themselves. 

 "Any girl who wanted to play, they were coached by two moms and at first, it was so rough. It was a rough start," said Ruiters. 

 "At that time, we were building goals that were stored in a shed. We would have to haul them out across the park and fit them together and velcro a net on," said Lindow. 

 Over the years, the bond between these girls, now ages 15-17, and their coaches grew. 

 "It's really a tight-knit close community that has become much bigger than soccer," said Lindow. 

The team even learned how to speak Spanish together. 

"We (created) an environment where we all speak each other's languages. On the field, they are constantly switching back and forth between English and Spanish," said Lindow. 

 "We don't have to hide our ethnicities and being able to connect with them in that way, it's really cool," said player Destiny Payan. 

 Slowly, this group of girls, coached by two moms with no coaching experience, got better. 

"It was just sheer grit and determination and love for the sport that kept them together. Any team that sticks together for ten years becomes good," said Ruiters. 

They became so skilled, the team placed second in the USA Cup last summer and were asked to compete in Norway Cup this year, the world's largest youth soccer tournament. A GoFundMe page has been established to help raise funds for the team's plane tickets. 

 "It's overwhelming because we are going to play international, so it's not going to be easy," said player Esme Benitz. 

Coached by professionals now, the team will travel overseas to compete in July if they can raise enough money to cover their plane tickets. It's a big deal, given the fact some of these girls already work full-time jobs on top of going to school to help their families. 

The girls say playing in this special tournament isn't about winning, it's about making it there and showing themselves and the world that anything is possible. 

 "Soccer is an amazing analogy for life...when you get backed into a corner or things get tough, you have to look to somebody else," said Ruiters.