For some youths, summertime is the perfect time to catch up with friends.
For three Zbaraschuk sisters — despite a ridiculously hectic summer sports schedule — it’s a time to catch up with family.
“This is the first summer I get to watch Zoei play,” says Madison Zbaraschuk, doting over her golf whiz sister. Zoei reciprocates the affection right back.
“I love watching them,” she says of her sisters. “We all try to watch each other’s games.”
So when Rylleigh, 13, and Maddy, 15, head to California this week to play for their summer select softball squad, Zoei plans to be there, rooting them on.
Call it the reality of living on the Olympic Peninsula; most young, aspiring athletes who want to play for a top club team have make the trek to Tacoma or Seattle or Everett or some metropolis.
For Rylleigh and Maddy Zbaraschuk, that means hitting the road twice a week to practice and nearly every weekend for tournaments with the Tacoma-based Diamond Dusters U14 White softball team.
Rylleigh, an eighth-grader to-be, is playing right field for the top U14 Diamond Duster team, though she’s listed as playing catcher, shortstop and center field as well.
“I just enjoy being around the sport, around people … (who) all want to be there,” Rylleigh says. “My batting has improved a lot.”
Maddy, a catcher and shortstop for Sequim High School’s varsity club as a freshman last spring, plays center field for the Dusters, though she can play nearly every infield position.
“We get a lot more exposure, college exposure,” she says, than simply playing for the SHS teams.
Besides the practice in Tacoma twice a week, the pair hit Sequim’s softball fields for training and take swings at the Sequim Baseball batting cages to keep sharp.
The Dusters have posted wins in each of their last two tournaments, particularly impressive since the tournaments were open to U16 teams. In June, the Duster squad played at the Oklahoma Hall of Fame tournament, finishing 13th overall. This week they head to Clovis, Calif., for the Amateur Softball Association Western Nationals. After that, Rylleigh and Maddy get a two-week break before starting up again on a Diamond Duster U16 squad.
Quite busy herself, Zoei, 17, has been playing in Washington Junior Golf Association tournaments for the last four weeks — a tourney each week — and earned a spot at the WJGA district championship.
The summer has been one of growth for the junior-to-be. After winning district medalist honors and placing seventh at the state 2A championships in the spring, this Zbaraschuk sister has scored a personal best round and a pair of top-five finishes in some of the toughest tournaments for golfers her age.
“I don’t have a lot of time for friends,” Zoei says. On out-of-town tournament dates — and they almost always are — she’s up at 5 a.m., teeing off at 8 a.m. And back home by 6:30 p.m. or so. “It’s definitely hard, but it’s a sacrifice I want to make.”
Come August, she’ll tee it up in a Pacific Northwest Golf Tournament in Longview before returning to the Northwest Junior Golf tour that lasts through December.
And when she’s not playing in tournaments, she’s practicing at either SunLand Golf Course or The Cedars at Dungeness. Some days, 18 holes. Others, nine holes and chipping putting and three of four buckets worth of range balls.
“I play almost everyday,” she says. “My goal for state is second … maybe first.”
Yeah, but doesn’t it all get tiring?
“I thought I would (get tired of golf) but I’m not,” Zoei says. “I keep finding something fun about it.”
The same holds true for her softball-flinging sisters, particularly if their older sister is watching.
If not, there’s always a cell phone.
“There’s lots of text messaging going on,” Zoei says. “We always find time.”
This week, Zoei plans to be quite close to her sisters as they travel to California for a tournament; Zoei has a rare week off. The ride south, she adds, has plenty of nice golf courses along the way.