DES MOINES, WA— (submission to goalWA.net) The 2014 & 2015 T-Birds may have been one of the most complete teams to have ever have competed in the NWAC. The Thunderbirds were akin to the 1999-2001 St. Louis Rams’ who were nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf.” From back to front they boasted one of the most ironclad defenses in recent memory paired with a silky midfield and lethal attack that led the pack for the duration of the year in every ranking. However, after a premature exit in the quarterfinals of last year’s NWAC tournament several players have received offers to continue to ply their trade at the next level and represent Highline in the NCAA ranks.
Isidro Prado-Huerta, the 2015 NWAC MVP, has opted to take his talents to the University of California in Santa Barbara. UCSB has a been a stalwart in the Division 1 ranks, a consistent attendee in the later rounds of the NCAA championship and renown far and wide for bringing in only the best players in the country. This offer is a testament to the technique and skill that Isidro applied whenever he stepped on the field. Prado-Huerta compiled 16 goals and 24 assists during his two exceptional years with the T-Birds and when he was in the mood he was about unplayable as a player can be. He is a truly dynamic one of a kind player who has all the tools necessary to succeed at the next level. If he carries on in California as he did in the NWAC don’t be surprised to see him accomplishing big things in the future.
Highline boasted another All-Star at right back in the form Tyler John. Unbelievably athletic, physical, technical and with an uncanny eye for goal, Tyler is everything the modern game demands of a fullback. If one combined the attacking ability of Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin with the savvy of Bayern’s Phillip Lahm you would be left with someone who closely resembled John. Tyler has chose to join the high-flying Seattle University Redhawks, who ended the season ranked #12 in the country according the last NSCAA Poll. Tyler actually started is career as a box to box midfielder with the T-Birds but quickly made the right back spot his own and went on to shut down every opponent he faced. A very versatile player, John actually had to play centre back in the 2014 NWAC Championship game where he never missed a beat and helped lead Highline to a 3-0 victory over the North Idaho Cardinals.
Tyler’s potential is truly limitless and has everything needed to be a standout player next year for the Redhawks.
Goalkeeper Grayson Raffensperger was another mainstay in the Highline defense and the physical embodiment of consistency. Grayson played nearly every minute in the net for the T-Birds over his two-year career compiling 13 shutouts and a 1.12 Goals Against Average. Raffensperger was a calming presence in the net for the ‘Birds and a lynchpin during their championship run in 2014. Gray’s saves against Skagit Valley in the semi-finals and North Idaho in the final were a big reason Highline was able to cruise to their second NWAC title. Raffensperger has decided to make his way to Queen Anne and join up with the national powerhouse Seattle Pacific Falcons. Mark Collings’ squad has been irresistible over the past couple years and have established themselves as one of the elite programs on the West Coast. Grayson will be a sparkling addition to the SPU goalkeeper ranks and will truly go down as one of the great goalkeepers in Thunderbird history.
Another Anchor in the T-Bird defense was center-back Colton Ronk. Colton posses imposing size, great pace and amazing poise on the ball and a big reason why opposing teams found the Thunderbird defense so watertight. Given Ronk’s size some teams literally found it impossible to go direct against the ‘Birds, whether the ball was played in the air or behind the line, Colton had the tools to cover.
Positionally he was a virtuoso, always finding himself in the appropriate spot to thwart or start an attack. In addition to being a defensive juggernaut, Colton also has an eye for a pass, consistently being able to find the appropriate ball to get Highline going on one of their lightning quick counter-attacks. Ronk has decided to make the move up north to play for Greg Brisbon at Western Washington. Western has a track record of producing some top quality players and look to have a very experienced squad coming back for 2016. The addition of Colton to the Viking team should no doubt improve an already quality roster.
Midfielder Alex Castillo was an absolute workhorse for Highline over his two-year career. His unusual combination of silk and steel combined with his pure athleticism made him a terror for other teams to deal with. Alex’s unique skill set no doubt caught the eye of the Concordia University coaching staff, which is where Castillo will be continuing his career. Concordia was able to get some big results last year and will no doubt look to continue to improve in the upcoming year. Alex was as dependable as you can get, constantly using his endless energy to win back possession for the T-Birds and then springboard the Highline attack. Castillo will no doubt bring a different dimension to the Cavaliers and help them continue their ascent up the Great Northwest Athletic Conference ranks.
The aforementioned players will be difficult to replace for the T-Birds and will no doubt go down as part of one of the great teams in the NWAC. Highline wishes these players all the best moving forward and look to see them all succeed at the next level. The ‘Birds still have other players speaking with colleges and once their commitments are confirmed we will be sure to announce as soon as possible! Come On You Thunderbirds!