It takes confidence and humility to step outside a supreme comfort zone and risk floundering in the public eye.
That was what Ryan Christensen did this past winter. Sitting around the family dinner table, Ryan had just won his second consecutive state championship as a wrestler for Woodinville High School. He was ranked as the second best wrestler in the nation, and signed a scholarship to Wisconsin.
But his brother Paul, who will play soccer for the University of Portland this fall, was going to be an assistant coach for the Falcons. He told Ryan that he should try out for the Falcons as a goalie.
It didn't hurt that Ryan's physics teacher, Nathan Davis, was also Woodinville's soccer coach.
“I talked to Davis a little bit before the season,” Ryan Christensen said. “He got me excited about it. He made it fun. He was a goalkeeper as well, so he was able to coach me and give me some pointers because I didn't know what I was doing at the beginning.”
In addition to working out with his brother, Ryan worked out with fellow Falcon Molly Stinson, who will be playing goalie for Seattle Pacific this fall.
“Molly is a good friend,” Ryan said. “I worked on my drop kicks and goal kicks with her. She helped me get my ankle locked up and my head down on my drop kicks and that really helped. I couldn’t kick very far at the start of the year before tryouts, but working with her helped a lot.”
Christensen made the team, and right away he made an impact.
“Ryan is playing great,” Davis said after a game back in March. “Today was his third game playing goalie in his life. We had some guys that played goalie watching from the sideline during pre-game warm ups, and they said it took them years to get to where he is. And he did it in a couple of weeks. He’s playing fantastic.”
Several weeks later, Davis was again asked to assess Christensen's play.
“He's now got nine games under his belt and he’s playing like a guy that's been playing for 10-12 years,” Davis said. “His size has helped out in all those balls in. He takes everyone with him and he wins the ball, and he likes it! He enjoys the physicality of it which is great and is something we need.”
Heading into late April, the Falcons won four games in a row and finished the regular season with a 9-5-2 record. They earned the school's first KingCo playoff berth since 2009.
Last Monday, the Falcons went to overtime with Garfield and lost a 1-0 heartbreaker. The season was suddenly over.
“We played really well as a team and had good possession and moved the ball around but we couldn't get in the back of the net,” Christensen said. “In overtime we committed a foul outside the penalty box. The [Garfield] kid had a free kick. And he hit a great shot. It went over the wall and dipped in. I was going across to knock it over the top and it knuckled past me. But overall everyone played really well. As far as losing goes, it was a good way to go out.”
With the season over, Christensen will be headed to the University of Wisconsin this fall. His life will revolve around wrestling and academics. Soccer might be something he takes up again in a few years for fun when wrestling days are done.
But fond memories from this spring will remain.
“Being with the team and how close we became as teammates, almost like a family, is what I enjoyed the most,” he said. “It was a really good atmosphere and I had a ton of fun. It made all the games and practices fun because I got to hang out with them and play with them and fight for them in the games. It really brought us all together.
“It's tough to be satisfied without making it as far as we wanted to,” he said. “We did have state championship aspirations but I kind of knew that was stretching our limits. I thought we could get there if we really came together as a team and picked it up in the end of the season. And we did do that.
“One of our team goals was also to make an impact in the league — which we did. We ended up third which was huge, as Woodinville hadn't done that well in awhile. I would say that although I wasn’t ready to lose and be done with the season, we did accomplish some good goals and I think Woodinville soccer will be heading in the right direction.”