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Where EAST meets the Northwest


PROUD TO BE A PILOT. Allison Wetherington (left, #23), a senior at the University of Portland, is a center midfielder on the women’s soccer team. Kicking a soccer ball around has been part of her life for 17 years. During the last four years, she has represented the Portland Pilots on the pitch. (AR Photo/Jody Lim)

SENIOR YEAR. Allison Wetherington a senior midfielder at the University of Portland (UP), dribbles the ball at a soccer match held on the UP campus. Wetherington will earn her degree in general studies with a specialization in psychology and sociology in the spring. (AR Photo/Jody Lim)

From The Asian Reporter, V26, #20 (October 17, 2016), pages 11 & 13.

Allison Wetherington: A story of soccer, gyoza, and dolphins

By Ryan Nakano

The Asian Reporter

Allison Wetherington’s greatest fear is the ocean. She is scared of the unknown, scared of what might be lurking underneath the surface. But the thing about Wetherington is that she loves dolphins, according to her best friend and former teammate, Noelle La Prevotte.

Wetherington, a senior at the University of Portland (UP), is a center midfielder on the women’s soccer team. After graduation, she will step out into the unknown, the metaphorical "ocean" laid out for the post-college student, and she will be certain of only one thing: that she will continue to play soccer the way she will continue to love the torpedo-shaped cetacean.

"She is very reserved, but she is such a passionate person," La Prevotte said. "I mean, she has played soccer almost all of her life and the passion she has for the game can also be seen in her loyalty and selflessness in her friendships."

La Prevotte and Wetherington played together for the Pilots for three years, but it wasn’t until last summer, La Prevotte’s senior year, that they became good friends. Since then, both players have visited each other’s families and homes on two separate occasions, Wetherington visiting the La Prevottes in California and La Prevotte flying to Georgia, the southern state in which 21-year-old Allison grew up playing soccer.

"It started when I was three years old, kicking a ball around at my brother’s games," Wetherington said. "By four, my parents signed me up and I’ve been in love with the sport ever since."

Not only has she been in love with soccer, she has excelled at it.

Before signing with the Pilots, Wetherington played international matches for several different teams in England, Sweden, and Spain. During her first year in Portland, she was named the West Coast Conference (WCC) Freshman of the Year in 2013. With five matches remaining in the regular season, she has played in every game of her college career (72 games), scoring 13 goals and giving 19 assists.

Prior to her senior year of high school, Wetherington had no intention of attending the University of Portland. She was continuously told by her club soccer coach, Brian Moore, that the Pilots wanted her to become part of their program, but Oregon always seemed too far from home, which made her uncertain. It took some convincing, but she eventually boarded a plane that would land her at Portland International Airport on June 1, 2013. After watching one match on campus and meeting players on the team in person, she was signed within 24 hours.

Aside from the distance, her home in Acworth, Georgia couldn’t have been more different than Portland or the Pacific Northwest in general. Simple Southern mannerisms like saying "yes ma’am" and "no ma’am" disappeared. Living in the city as opposed to the countryside was completely foreign, but it didn’t take long for Wetherington to adapt. In fact, she currently has no plans to leave Portland, a city she now calls home.

Since heading to college, Wetherington has travelled back home twice a year. Each trip to visit her family has a routine that starts with a stop at her grandmother’s house in South Carolina, a gathering that includes homemade gyoza and California rolls.

"She is one of the sweetest people I know and she just loves to make food for us," Wetherington said of her 87-year-old grandmother, Shigeko Wetherington. "We usually drive her to the grocery store after we eat so she can start preparing for dinner."

A dinner of steak, rice, and sushi.

The sushi is for Wetherington’s father; Allison doesn’t really care for sushi all that much, but she is happy to be home, happy to hear the stories her grandmother tells about living in northern Japan while sharing their meal.

"There is a definite communication barrier. Her Japanese accent is very thick, so most of the time I have to get my dad to help translate for me," she said.

Wetherington is one-quarter Japanese from her dad’s side of the family. Much like the communication barrier with her grandmother, there are several cultural things that she grew up with not fully understanding.

"Both my dad and grandma are Buddhist and they both have Buddhist altars in their homes," Allison said. "When I was younger, I used to sit next to my dad in the morning while he chanted in front of it, even though I had no idea what was going on."

This is the general sense of uncertainty she has grown up with, that she continues to learn about now, when it comes to matters of family and identity, but she knows her family well enough to understand she has their unconditional love and support.

Both her parents, Sally and Gary, used to drive Allison two hours away from their home to soccer practices. She said they also never missed a club game. Back in 2013, when Allison visited the UP campus and was in the room with her now-current coach, Garrett Smith, on the verge of committing to play on the bluff for the Pilots, her mother had no idea beforehand it was something she was seriously considering.

"I didn’t even consult my parents. When I was there, I just looked at Garrett and told him I wanted to go here," Allison said. "My mom just turned to look at me and said ‘okay, that’s fine.’"

Wetherington, who will earn her degree in general studies with a specialization in psychology and sociology in the spring, said she has really enjoyed her time with the team over the past four years.

Allison Wetherington’s greatest fear is the ocean. She is still unsure of her own cultural inheritance, she was uncertain of moving too far from her parents, and now as she continues her senior year at the University of Portland, she is faced with the unknown that will follow her impending graduation. But the thing about Wetherington is that she loves soccer and her family and her friendships, and much like dolphins, these things, at least to Allison, seem to be just as majestic.

The Portland Pilots play two more regular-season home matches this month. On Friday, October 21 at 7:00pm, the team takes on the University of the Pacific Tigers, and on Sunday, October 23 at 1:00pm, they play the Saint Mary’s College Gaels. This year’s seniors — Wetherington, Hanna de Haan, Alyssa Edenstrom, Ellie Boon, and Devlyn Jeter — will be recognized as part of a "Senior Day" ceremony at the Sunday game. Matches are played at Merlo Field at the Clive Charles Soccer Complex on the University of Portland campus, located at 5000 N. Willamette Boulevard. To learn more, or to buy tickets to a match, call (503) 943-7525 or visit <www.portlandpilots.com>.

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