One of a kind: unique Three Lakes soccer team prepares for another seasonSubmitted: 03/20/2018

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THREE LAKES - Three Lakes girls soccer is unique for one simple reason: its existence.

"Honestly it's crazy to me that those other schools don't have it and that little Three Lakes does," said Three Lakes senior Grace Stefonik.

The Blue Jays offer the only girls soccer program of any school in the Northern Lakes Conference.

That's in part because of the sport's strong roots at the youth level in Three Lakes.

"I started playing soccer since I was four, maybe five," said sophomore Grace Ribbe.

But having a soccer program at such a small school comes with its share of challenges.

"Long bus rides, one of our longest bus rides is like three and a half hours," said Ribbe.

The Blue Jays play in the four-team Northern Lights Conference.

That means trips to play Phillips, Washburn-Bayfield, and Ironwood.

"I think it makes it that much more fun and interesting to play different girls than we play in every other sport," said Stefonik.

In addition to the travel, the Blue Jays are forced to play schools much larger than their own.

"We play freshman who play the whole game. We're playing against teams that have all juniors and seniors.

That's a huge advantage for the other teams," said Three Lakes Head Coach Abel Bean.

But Bean says that challenge provides a valuable life lesson for his players.

"How do you handle that? How do you prepare for a game like that and mentally play and be in there and what do you learn from that experience? And how do you take that and move forward?," said Bean.

It's a lesson his players recognize.

"I've definitely learned to persevere because on the soccer field, when we only have a couple subs, you really need to push yourself through the whole game," said Stefonik.

The players also hope to pass lessons like that on to the next group that comes through this unique program.

"I absolutely love it and embrace it and encourage as many girls to come out [as possible] to keep this program going, because it really can grow from here," said Stefonik.

The Blue Jays begin their season against Kingsford on April 10.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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