Eastside FC Alum Emily Bunnell shares great memories of her soccer journey and beyond.
Bunnell, 25, lives in Denver, CO where she works for Searchspring as a Customer Success Manager. Once she gets acclimated, she wants to get back to playing soccer in a co-ed league or coaching a team of her own. Prior to Bunnell’s move to Denver, she played college soccer in Bellingham at Western Washington University. She enjoyed plenty of success on the pitch, including winning the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2016.
“Winning a National Championship was the highlight of college but along with winning the Natty, I was able to play for amazing coaches, met some of my closest friends to date, and learn more about myself as a person,” said Bunnell. “I think that is one of the biggest blessings coming out of playing a collegiate sport, you learn a lot about yourself, personally and as an athlete!”
Bunnell was part of the first “DEV” team at Eastside. A large group of younger players had come to tryout early, so the club decided to launch a pilot initiative and keep them all together. Throughout her tenure at EFC, Emily developed into a very strong and reliable player.
A fantastic player at the club and college levels, Bunnell’s shows that progress isn’t always linear, and that the club’s dedication to player development helped her become the best version of herself on the pitch.
“I joined Eastside FC at the age of 10 and played for the G96 Red team for the majority of my career, with a year stint for the G96 White team,” noted Bunnell. “This was honestly a great year for me, I was able to develop my soccer skills during my time with the White team and earned a spot back on the Red team the year after. I was lucky enough to play under Chance Fry my whole career, as well as Tom Bunnell (my dad) until high school years came around, and also can't forget about the fantastic Emily Cole while I was on the White team.”
Bunnell’s eventual success in college was a culmination of the experience she amassed during her youth soccer days. Not only did she grow as a player, but her confidence and leadership skills were honed during this formative time.
“I was pretty fortunate to play for some pretty awesome teams during my developmental years,” she said. “On the Red team we won a handful of State titles, were finalists in regionals, and secured 2 Surf Cup championships. On the White team, we won state and were regional finalists as well. High school soccer was also such an amazing experience for me. I was a 4-year varsity player and was lucky enough to be rewarded captain my junior and senior year as well. In my 4 years at Lake Washington HS we won 2 Kingco titles as well as district champions my senior year.”
Reflecting on her time at Eastside, Bunnell spoke fondly of her favorite moments but also noted the lessons she learned that have helped her on and off the pitch.
“Playing at Eastside FC for the entirety of my youth soccer career was such an incredible experience overall,” added Bunnell. “To me, some of my fondest memories were playing in the state championship on Mother’s Day every single year, going down to San Diego for Surf Cup, and getting to see/play soccer with my friends 3 times a week every week! Traveling for showcases and tournaments was always fun as well!
“As mentioned before, I was fortunate enough to play on such an experienced and overall great team, so we got to play in one of the most competitive leagues at the time (even for a couple years we were playing in a division a year up). Not only was the playing competitive, but we also had our fair share of fitness that came along with it all. I think overall our practice and game structure along with the competitive nature I was playing in, really helped develop my mental and physical capabilities as a player heading into college.”
Asked what advice she would share with current EFC players, Bunnell was quick to point out that success stems from hard work, and that finding happiness outside of the game is beneficial in all facets of life.
“If you are a current EFC player and want to play college soccer, you must put in the work. Do the extra fitness, do the extra skills trainings, this is something I wish I took more seriously my senior year and heading into the season. Along with all of that though, it's vital that you also make sure you are still having FUN! And lastly, the best advice I was ever given was actually from my dad. If you decide you want to play in college, pick a school that you can be standing in the middle of campus in the worst weather possible (whether that's scorching hot or dumping rain) with a season ending injury and STILL be able to say you are happy with the choice of the school you're at. Balance is key in all aspects of life!”