Published May 6, 2022
Written By:       Sam Palmer
                  West Region Contributor


For players, clubs and communities, it's been a long time coming.

On May 22, 2022, the Northwest conference will resume competitive play for the first time since 2019. Like the rest of the WPSL, the Northwest conference experienced the total cancellation of its 2020 season. But while other WPSL conferences played competitive matches in 2021, albeit in an altered format, for logistical reasons the teams of Oregon and Washington were only able to practice and play friendlies. 

This means that the landscape of the Northwest conference has significantly changed since the curtain closed on the 2019 season. The break in continuity caused by the pandemic means there will be an element of novelty for every club in the conference. Established sides will be asking some of the same questions about their roster as the newer clubs, with everyone eager to assert their place. 


While there are no true expansion clubs in this season’s conference, three of the six clubs will be taking the field for competitive play for only the second time. Spokane SC Shadow, OSA XF and PacNW all had strong outings in their first season and will be hoping to build on that resume as they return for their sophomore seasons. 


Their competition comes from three experienced sides in the Westside Timbers, Eugene Timbers and ISC Gunners. With over 150 league matches and four playoff appearances collectively under their belt, these clubs know the region, the league and what it takes to compete. 


That experience is all the more important since the Northwest conference offers a relatively straightforward path into the WPSL postseason. With no internal divisions, there will be no need for conference playoffs and the conference champion will move directly into regional and national postseason competition. If you win, you’re in. 


One team that will be angling for the solitary playoff spot is ISC Gunners FC out of Issaquah, Wash. The Gunners have an overall record of 42 wins, 16 losses and 16 draws, and 30 more wins than the nearest historical competitor. All of the aforementioned four playoff appearances among returning clubs belong to them. In 2022, however, they cannot afford to glory in the past. Their new team has experienced turnover, which head coach Bryan Mancill, himself new to the area, acknowledges:

“We have our fair share of new players in the group, and I am new as the coach. But we also have some strong returning players in Macy Jo Harrison, Kellyn Green and Claudia Longo, to name just a few”


The core of established players allows Mancill to feel confident about his side as they return to league play. For Mancill, the return of competitive matches is more of an opportunity for the club and its community than a challenge. 


“I think it will be exciting to get our team out on the field and in front of a crowd again. Our program has had success in the past and I look forward to continuing the tradition and growing the program”


That veteran core includes, most notably, team captain Macy Jo Harrison, returning for her final season in the WPSL.  Harrison, a University of Nevada - Las Vegas alumna, has been with the Gunners since 2014 as a player, coach and administrator.

Harrison will marshal a team that is as young as it is talented. The Gunners look to add standout college players like Makena Rietz, the second-team All-American midfielder who captained Seattle Pacific University to a quarterfinals appearance in the 2021 NCAA Division II tournament. Rietz will take the field with Claudia Longo, the University of Washington captain, as well as Sarah Reiber, who played for the Italian third-division side Roma Decimoquarto.  


Although ISC Gunners have been the first to announce its signings for the 2022 season, the rest of the conference will be close behind. In a region with an immense pool of women’s talent and a vibrant soccer culture, the Northwest conference is waiting to show the rest of the league what they’ve been missing. 



Northwest Conference Opening Matches:


OSA XF: May 21, 4:00 p.m. vs. Spokane Shadow


Spokane Shadow: May 21,  4:00 p.m. vs. OSA XF


PacNW: May 22,  7:00 p.m. vs. OSA XF


Westside Timbers: June 1,  6:00 p.m. vs. Eugene Timbers


Eugene Timbers: June 1,  6:00 p.m. vs. Westside Timbers


ISC Gunners FC: June 1,  7:30 p.m. vs. PacNW


All matches will be available on Eleven Sports, the official streaming partner of the WPSL.