MARYSVILLE –Twenty-five years ago these girls were on top of the world.
But then life happened – marriages, births, deaths…
Looking back at that joyous time of innocence and success brought tears to their eyes – and their coaches, too.
Leftfielder Anna Soper of Marysville organized a reunion Tuesday at Cedar Field. It was for Marysville’s “Dream Team.”
It had nothing to do with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, who the year before led the USA to Olympic Gold in basketball.
This was a girls fastpitch softball team that got on a roll to win district, regionals, state and divisionals before finally placing second in the nation at the Little League World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich.
“Back then it was a pretty big deal for the community,” Soper said.
The city had a parade in honor of the girls, and then-Mayor Dave Weiser awarded them the key to the city.
“No one will ever have a team like that again,” said Kiara Anderson Darnell, who played catcher and whose game-winning hit sent them to the series. She knocked in all five runs that game.
She’s probably right. Almost every member of the team went on to play in college: Princeton, Troy State, Mercer, Portland State, Auburn, South Carolina, Florida …
Manager Rich Barnett said what made that team so special was no one player stood out.
“It was never the same person. Different heroes every game. The girls picked each other up all the time,” he said.
Coach Scott Bissell added: “It was the perfect storm. They all got along. It was the funnest time we’ve ever had.”
The team was called the Marysville Magic, and they certainly were. Barnett said it seemed like almost every game the team was behind and came back to win.
“They did everything I asked them to do,” he said. “It never felt like we were done.”
That wasn’t the only year the girls played together. They played on select teams and at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, too.
Soper and Bissell said the same thing, “We should have won state but never did,” even though they went there all four years at M-P.
Soper’s dad, Leon, said the parents and coaches taught them to focus on softball.
“Behind every good team is a good core of parents,” he said.
The team’s mantra was “Focus and Believe” and the girls took that to heart. Barnett and Bissell were ahead of their time in working with a team that young – showing them film of Mariner’s games and breaking down their swings. The positivity and inspirational quotes were also not done normally on teams that age.
Barnett’s daughter, Missy, played third base and pitched, along with fireballer Morgan Seibert. Catcher Anderson said they threw changeups and drop balls, along with fastballs. Bissell’s daughter, Kristin, played shortstop. When Barrett’s truck would pull up for practice the song “Centerfield” by John Fogerty would be blaring.
Soper said most of the girls still live in Marysville or nearby so she’s stayed friends with them. She thought of having the reunion when she saw video of Kirkland doing so well this year.
“It brought back so many memories,” she said.
They found the old scorebooks, and Barnett put together a detailed game-by-game recap of the summer of 1993.
Soper recalled that most of the girls had never even been on a plane before. Born in 1971, she said Marysville was a small town of 5,000 people.
“It’s a fun memory – an exciting time in Marysville,” she said.
Sports were huge back then. Marysville had six girls softball teams, a lot more than now.
“My dad, brother and I would come watch a baseball game and eat a Cedar Burger,” she recalled.
After losing to defending champs Waco, Texas, for the Little League title, the girls joined the select team and played all over the country as they got older, playing as many as 100 games during a spring-summer. That’s how many of them were recruited to colleges.
Soper played two years for Ivy League school Princeton.
She said they all owe their success to that year with the “Dream Team.”
“That’s when we started taking it seriously. We could play at a top level. We were dedicated and focused at a young age,” she said.
Even when they weren’t playing, the team would have dinners and other get-togethers.
“They kept us out of trouble,” Soper said of the parents and coaches.
Even though Soper was successful in sports, she said she’s not going to push her 6-year-old son into it. “Some get burned out,” she said of kids who are pressured into playing by parents.
But for her, sports were important, especially that season in 1993.
“It was kind of magical,” she said.
Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson and John Stockton.
Kiara Anderson, Missy Barnett, Kristin Bissell, Crysta Coleburn, Christi Curran, Heidi Lane, Kristi LaMascus, Briana Ickes, Cori Little, Laura Nix, Shannon Nyblod, Morgan Seibert, Anna Soper and Lindsey Wicks. Manager Rich Barnett. Coach Scott Bissell.