SEQUIM — Way back at the beginning of his club soccer career with Storm King, Sequim senior Eli Gish was placed on the club’s reserve team.
“My first year playing for Storm King, the coach, Kevin Parker, put me on the B team. I think I was 11 years old. I wasn’t disappointed or mad; I understood I wasn’t on that level yet,” Gish said.
Instead of sulking, the move sparked a realization for Gish, even at that young age.
“That’s where I started to develop my work ethic,” Gish said. “I started to understand if you want to get something you have to work for it, and I’ve put in a lot of hard work from age 11 to 17.”
That work, including starting on upperclassmen-heavy state tournament-bound soccer teams for Sequim as a freshman and sophomore in 2018 and 2019 and making the state cross country meet in the fall of 2019, paid off.
Gish recently signed a letter of intent to continue his soccer career at NAIA Corban University in Salem, Ore.
Signing to become a Warrior doubles as the fulfillment of a long-running aspiration and forward progress of his dream of playing professional soccer.
“I’ve been wanting to play in college since middle school,” Gish said. “My mom would film games for Storm King as well as the high school team, so I was able to get some game film and reach out to coaches by email. I was able to build up some connections and had the resources to sell myself to coaches.”
During COVID, Gish kept his soccer fitness up by practicing skills work on his own, running by himself and with a group of Sequim cross country and track athletes and also practicing with former Sequim teammate Adrian Funston, a relative by marriage.
“I also went to a camp at a college in Idaho, and we were able to do 11-on-11 scrimmages because of different restrictions in that state,” Gish said.
Gish plans to study film and digital media in college and has assisted on streaming services for his home church, Dungeness Community Church, during the pandemic.
Gish’s soccer ability stood out on tape and a friendly connection to Corban helped Gish make his decision.
“I had a friend who played on the team [Ryan Botkin] who is from Port Townsend who went there more for the school aspect and then joined the team,” Gish said.
“He told me about the family aspect, that it was a tight-knit group. And I saw it as a really competitive team that really pushes each other. Talking with the head coach [Tim Kagey], he wants to put together the best team and put the best players on the field. That drives me to compete and do my best.”
Gish was a dangerous presence offensively as a sophomore in 2019 scoring three goals along with three assists, despite playing as a defender due to the Wolves’ level of talent up top. He was a second-team All-Olympic League pick that season but will likely be playing as a forward in the future.
“It all depends on how I develop and what the coaching staff sees me as,” Gish said. “But with my skill set, I think I would be more valuable as a forward. I’ll just show up ready to do my best.”
Gish gave thanks to those who helped him reach this moment.
“I’m thankful for God for blessing me with the passion and ability to play,” Gish said. “Not everybody is able to run and see and feel. Thankful for my parents [Steve and Jeannette]; they’ve put in so many hours driving and supporting me in my journey and my goals; and all the coaches and my close friends who have pushed me to be better.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].