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   Spanish foreign exchange student Julia García Oñoro is adding to her American experience with a stint as a CHS basketball player. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

García Oñoro works on her dribbling skills during a recent practice.

“I loved this town since the day I arrive.”

Trading bustling Guadalajara, Spain for low-key Coupeville has been a big change for Julia García Oñoro, but it’s one the foreign exchange student turned basketball star is enjoying.

“It’s really nice here; it is really different from any place I’ve been before,” she said. “While I was in Spain I was always looking in Google maps and photos about Coupeville, but anyways it still surprised me, how beautiful it is.”

“My town was nothing like here,” García Oñoro added. “Alovera has a lot more people and it’s a lot dryer; well, all that area has a dry weather.

“We barely see the rain and we don’t have the same kind of trees as here and of course not that many.”

Like most foreign exchange students, García Oñoro didn’t choose her destination. But, wherever she landed, it was a journey she was anticipating.

“It was really unexpected,” she said. “One day I was with my dad in the car and he suddenly asked me if I wanted to do it. I didn’t even think about it, my answer was yes.

“I really was into the idea because the last summer I spent a month as a foreign student in England, and it was fantastic,” García Oñoro added. “And not always you have the opportunity to go and live abroad and learn another language.”

In preparation for the trip, she filled out questionnaires and wrote a letter about herself, so that prospective host families could get a feel for her as a person.

When she landed in a cow town on a rock in the middle of the water in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, it was kismet.

“I didn’t choose Coupeville, but anyways, if I had the opportunity I would probably choose it or a place similar to this,” García Oñoro said.

With the arrival of winter, she’s joined Amy King’s Wolf JV basketball team, a first-time player learning the game under a sage hoops guru.

Enjoying her first experience with American high school sports, García Oñoro is considering playing tennis or competing in track and field in the spring.

After her year in America, she’ll return to Spain to live with her mother, where she’ll finish her final year of high school.

Down the road, García Oñoro plans to study economics and international business while living with her grandparents.

That will give her an opportunity to combine further schooling with providing assistance to her grandmother and grandfather.

When she’s not in the gym working on perfecting her skills on the basketball court, García Oñoro enjoys reading. Though she admits her mind wanders at times.

“I love reading, but I can’t deny that I procrastinate a lot with it,” she said. “I always end up in my phone reading stories in Wattpad or wasting my time in Tumblr.

“Another thing I like is music,” García Oñoro added. “I can spend hours listening it or looking for new artists or songs.”

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(Dawn Hesselgrave photos)

The Americans have come to town, and they’re not leaving until they score all the goals. (Dawn Hesselgrave photos)

flag

Spreading a bit of international love.

cup

Just in case you forgot where they are.

San Sebastian glows.

San Sebastian glows.

Still flawless in Spain.

Pulling off its second shutout in as many days, the NWU GU16 select soccer squad, which features four Whidbey island players, rampaged to a 6-0 victory at the Donosti Cup in San Sebastian.

With all four Island girls — Mia Littlejohn, Jenna Cooley, Malia Hansen and Kalia Littlejohn — contributing with a goal or assist, or both, NWU pounded Antigua Luberri BGE, which hails from Zumaia, Spain.

Now 2-0 in the tourney, which draws 400+ teams from 20+ countries, the Washington state squad has outscored its opponents 10-0 so far.

The most electrifying goal in game two may have come from Kalia Littlejohn.

The Coupeville High School freshman-to-be awoke memories of the professional players who have trod the pitch in the stadium she was playing in, punching in her goal on a header.

Back at home on The Rock, Wolf girls’ soccer coach Troy Cowan heard the news and hasn’t stopped smiling since.

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Kalia (Dawn Hesselgrave photos)

Kalia Littlejohn joins the Wall of Fame. (Dawn Hesselgrave photos)

Dawn

Dawn Hesselgrave is caught on the other side of the camera.

Kalia and Malia

   Littlejohn and Malia Hansen (left) explore a high-level professional soccer locker room.

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San Sebastian, soccer (and food) mecca.

Mia

   Mia Littlejohn (left, front) enjoys the ride, while several of her teammates opt for nap time.

Kalia

Kalia practices her post-goal celebration.

They’re undefeated on international soil.

Having traveled to Spain for the Donosti Cup, the NWU GU16 select soccer squad, which features four Whidbey Island players, rolled to a 4-0 win in its opener.

Coupeville High School sophomore-to-be Mia Littlejohn scored a goal in the first half, then took over in net in the second half to complete the shutout.

The Donosti Cup, held in San Sebastian on Spain’s Basque coast, draws 400 teams from 20 countries.

Players, coaches and parents raised the money for the trip with a variety of fundraisers, and the first few days in Spain were spent sightseeing and tasting the local cuisine.

San Sebastian currently has two of the world’s top ten ranked restaurants.

Mia Littlejohn is joined on the squad by lil’ sis Kalia, who will be a freshman at CHS, as well as fellow Islanders Malia Hansen and Jenna Cooley.

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Ayla Muller with coaches Scott Rosenkranz (left) and Sean LeVine. (Kali Barrio photos)

   Ayla Muller, with soccer coaches Scott Rosenkranz (left) and Sean LeVine. (Kali Barrio photos)

The GU19 Whidbey Islanders gather for one last home game.

The GU19 Whidbey Islanders gather for one last home game.

Micky LeVine (left) and Erin Rosenkranz. (Sean LeVine photo)

Coupeville stars Micky LeVine (left) and Erin Rosenkranz exit with a smile. (Sean LeVine photo)

It was for the playoffs.

It was for revenge.

It was for a chance to walk off their home field together, united, as winners one last time.

Most of all, it was for Ayla.

When the GU19 Whidbey Islanders select soccer squad pulled out a thriller Saturday, edging the visiting Bellevue Ravens 1-0, it capped a whirlwind week.

The team held a red, white and blue going-away party for Ayla Muller, their spark-plug, who is moving to Roda, Spain with her family.

Then they took the turf at Oak Harbor’s Wildcat Stadium for the final time — most of the team is comprised of high school seniors who are headed towards graduation — and assured they would play on for at least another week.

Just without Muller, who exits the country May 1.

“It was a very emotional game,” said Islander coach Sean LeVine. “Our final home game for our team and Ayla’s final game with us.

“This is a tough loss for our team as she is not only a great player, center-back, goal keeper, but she is absolutely adored by her teammates and coaches!,” he added. “In fact, we owe much of our shut out today to her.”

Muller, who shared time in goal with Kenzie Perry, took a leg to the head late in the game to cap her Islander career.

“She went out with a bang, literally, but thankfully she is fine,” LeVine said. “We are sad to see her go, but excited for her new adventure.

“I know she plans to play soccer over there, so I’m very happy about that.”

Beyond Muller’s departure and the game being the home finale, a victory was huge.

It avenged a 3-2 loss to the Ravens from earlier in the season and moved the Islanders into first place in their State Cup bracket.

Whidbey advances to play at Bellevue next weekend, with a win or possibly a tie in that game pushing them into the semifinals May 9.

With both teams fighting for their playoff lives, the game was a hard-fought affair, but the Islanders had two factors firmly in their favor.

“What a game! It was really non-stop action between two fairly evenly matched teams,” LeVine said. “The only difference was that we have the better defense and conditioning!

“We out hustled them!”

With the Islanders playing stellar defense, Perry was only called on for two saves in the first half, while Muller made three after the break.

Whidbey’s goal came on a bang-bang play, where it had several looks at the net, but actually scored via an own goal by the Ravens.

Late in the second half Jacalyn Hefflefinger, powering down the sideline, slid a cross into the box, finding Lydia Peplinski on the fly.

Defended well, Peplinksi took the ball wide and put a cross right across the top of the goal box, where Perry (now playing on the field) came flying in and got a touch on it, causing it to deflect off a defender and into the goal.

Even if the ball hadn’t taken a fortunate bounce, the Islanders were primed, with Gillian Crossley sitting ready to punch the ball in as well.

“It was an own goal, but a real team effort!” LeVine said.

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Mia Littlejohn is part of a talented group of freshmen who made an impact this season.

   Mia Littlejohn stalks the pitch during her recent freshman season at Coupeville High School. (John Fisken photo)

Whidbey booters (l to r) Kalia Littlejohn, Malia ? and Mia Littlejohn. (Dawn Hesselgrave photo)

The talented trio of (l to r) Kalia Littlejohn, Malia Hansen and Mia Littlejohn. (Dawn Hesselgrave photo)

Three of Whidbey’s finest soccer players have a chance to take their pursuit of “The Beautiful Game” to Spain next summer, but they’ll need some help.

Coupeville’s Mia and Kalia Littlejohn and North Whidbey’s Malia Hansen have been playing for the North West United U-15 Premier team.

To make the select soccer squad, which draws players from across Washington state, they had to beat out all comers at tryouts.

Once they did that, the trio sparkled as NW United enjoyed strong showings at a string of tournaments.

Now, the squad has been invited to play in the 2015 Donosti Cup in Spain.

The tourney, which runs July 6-11, brings together 350 youth soccer teams from around the world.

Held in San Sebastian on the northern coast of Spain, the Donosti Cup gives teams up to six games.

Squads play four to five round-robin games before being placed in a finals or consolation finals bracket.

If NW United makes it to a final, the girls would play at Anoeta Stadium, the home field of Spanish fútbol power Real Sociedad. The stadium seats 32,000 spectators.

Win or lose, all teams will participate in the opening ceremonies, which will feature teams from 17 different countries.

To make the trip, though, the girls will need financial help from fans on The Rock and beyond.

To read much more about their proposed adventures and possibly chip in a few bucks to help fuel the future of Whidbey soccer, pop over to:

http://www.gofundme.com/whidbey-spain

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