Soccer not exactly a Viking tradition, but it'll do for Poulsbo

POULSBO — A soccer tradition thrived throughout the North End this Memorial Day weekend.

Hundreds of families descended into Poulsbo and Kingston, as the 24th annual soccer showcase Viking Cup kicked into high gear.

Parking lots at area schools were brimming, trunks were opened to reveal large bags of soccer balls. Youngsters, teenagers and adults were seen in vibrant colored jerseys around town, filling up the lodging establishments and restaurants.

“The entire town is busy and you know a lot of it is because of soccer,” said volunteer field marshall and parent of a player Debbie Booher. “They visit the restaurants, see a movie, go to the grocery stores. It definitely impacts the community by filling up the town.”

This year the three-day tournament saw nearly 128 teams from throughout the Northwest, which is a boost, as last year 104 teams participated and in 2006 the numbers were in the 90s. The rising numbers are good news for the North Kitsap Soccer Club, which hosts the event as a fundraiser.

Aaron Vernik, NKSC president and Viking Cup co-director, said approximately $6,000 was raised last year. The funds provide scholarships for players and coaches, provide four college scholarships for Kingston and North Kitsap high school players, helps pay for equipment and training and keeps NKSC membership costs low.

“Viking Cup is the most important weekend for the entire soccer year for this club, without this there’s a lot of kids out there playing that wouldn’t be there,” Vernik said. “There’s benefits all around. Without this tournament our prices would be a lot higher, we’d have to do a lot less. It would be entirely on the players.”

Raising money for a good cause aside, the Cup is more about sportsmanship, having fun and building relationships. From players to referees to fans to field marshals, all agree the weekend was a positive good time.

“It’s a lot of fun and a really good thing,” said first-time Viking Cup referee from Aberdeen Bill Mullikin. “Almost all of the teams leave having a great time. I think what a great place to come and enjoy the holiday weekend.”

Mullikin was impressed at the area’s love for soccer, which is evidenced by the number of referees in Poulsbo, he said.

“Poulsbo with a population of 7,500 has more adult refs than Grace Harbor County where I come from and we’ve got a population of 75,000,” he said, “so this area supports soccer in a phenomenal way.”

Mullikin is right.

Parents, players, the Viking Cup Committee and volunteers combine to make the tournament a seamless success.

The Viking Cup Committee, comprised of six to eight event organizing volunteers, spends hundreds of hours to ensure the weekend is flawless. And this year they just about reached perfection.

“Things have gone so well, we haven’t had a single issue we haven’t been able to overcome,” said Greg Otto, Viking Cup Committee member and head field marshall. “It’s been a great success. I’ve heard nothing but compliments about how the tournament has been run.”

Taylor Booher, a ninth-grader at NKHS who plays for the U16 team Fuego, loves the Cup because everybody comes together to help.

“Viking Cup is just a local tournament that we love to have fun with,” she said. “It gets all the clubs together and we unite to help raise this tournament.”

Booher said the teams make lunches for the referees, control, line and renovate the fields, put up flags, stock first aid kits, check for holes in the goals, and host the Sunday night banquet for the referees as a way to say thanks.

“We just like having a local tournament because it really helps promote Poulsbo because it’s a really nice community,” Taylor said. “It helps people from far away learn about what Poulsbo is all about, and it really helps soccer in North Kitsap. It’s just a cool environment to be in.”

The learning and sharing goes both ways though, as Taylor has also garnished a little information about places other than her home town. She likes to talk to the other teams and looks forward to seeing them year after year, which is what Viking Cup is all about.

“It’s not just playing soccer it’s a huge social event, and you learn about different places,” Taylor said. “It’s fun to see teams coming back, it’s so ‘I remember you,’ and you can joke and say ‘Oh you’re going down,” because you know them. It’s just fun.”

As the rain cascaded on Monday and the Viking Cup festivities were coming to a close, spirits didn’t damper. A fence of fans’ umbrellas lined the fields, and water-logged players wiped their hair out of their eyes with their jerseys, but a smile was worn by all.

“We’re playing soccer for a weekend and afterwards going to Dairy Queen, that’s the highlight,” said Bainbridge FC 92 U16 member Joe McKienzie as he left the field on Monday.

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