Front Royal’s Unrath making big strides in soccer

Isabella Unrath, 13, of Front Royal dribbles the soccer ball at the Skyline SoccerPlex in Front Royal recently. Unrath will be playing for the U-15 FC Virginia squad this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Isabella Unrath gave soccer a try for the first time when she was 5, and she’s been hooked ever since.

The rising Warren County freshman has taken that immediate love of the game and is going to new heights every year.

Unrath plays for the FC Virginia team, located in Ashburn. In August, Unrath will begin playing in the Elite Clubs National League for the U-15 FC Virginia team. Last year she played on the U-13 Pre-ECNL team.

“I’ll be doing that this fall. I’ll get a new group of girls to play with, we’ll have the same coach,” Unrath said in a recent interview at the Skyline SoccerPlex. “… I’m hoping it will be a great season.”

Unrath said that ECNL is the highest league in the country, and current U.S. women’s team member Mallory Pugh plays in the ECNL.

For Unrath her journey started with playing recreationally in Front Royal. She said when she was 7, her dad started reading books and watching videos so that he could help her with her game, because he noticed she was really enjoying the game.

Unrath said when she was about 9, she joined the Front Royal Soccer Association travel team. Then a year later she switched to Winchester United, which was coached by Rich Haymaker and later by former Millbrook head boys soccer coach Neil Hammond.

“I really enjoyed that team,” Unrath said. “It was just another soccer team just a new perspective of coaching girls.”

While playing for that team, Unrath said she went to a U-12 summer camp in Ashburn.

“The coach running camps thought I was really good, and the president of the club was on the field next to us having private sessions,” Unrath said. “The coach asked the president if he could come take a look at me, and he said that he thought I was really good and I should try out for the team.”

Unrath said that after talking it over with her family they decided to stay with Winchester United for the rest of the season, and then she switched to FC Virginia the following season.

Last year was her first year playing with FC Virginia and she moved up from the “B” team to the “A” team after just a couple weeks.

“It was a great season. They are a great group of girls and we were playing for the Virginia (Youth Soccer Association) State Cup, who’s the best team in Virginia for that age group,” Unrath said. “We actually won the State Cup, which was big for me because I never thought I’d be able to do that. It showed that my hard work has paid off.”

She said that she also made the Olympic Development Program state team and played in a regional game for the state team. She also went to Rhode Island for a college camp.

Unrath, who plays both at forward and midfield, said that the new season for FC Virginia starts on Aug. 15 with a training camp. She said that the season is year-round and they will be traveling all over the country. She said they practice three or four times a week and play one or two games each weekend. ECNL is made up of 79 teams from across the country and they have a playoffs at the end of each season, with the finals being held in California. Unrath said that FC Virginia is currently ranked in the Top 25 of ECNL.

Unrath said she was the team’s leading scorer last season, but she also loves getting assists. Unrath said she can kick with both her left and right foot, which allows her not only to score but to be able to set up her teammates for scores as well. She said she loves many different aspects of the game.

“I love how the game is played. It’s a physical sport, a mental sport. Mentally you have to make good decisions — like checkers. You can’t just kick the ball. You have to make good plays,” Unrath said. “Physically you have to be in good shape. You have to be able to be strong, and you have to be able to hold off players.”

Unrath said that playing for FC Virginia is a big commitment, but it’s worth it to her because of how much she loves the sport.

“There’s going to be hard days where you’re not going to want to do it, but that’s something where you just have to be strong and push through it,” Unrath said. “That’s what I’ve been doing since I was 12 years old. Sometimes I’m not able to go to that sleepover with my friends, or go to Kings Dominion or watch a football game on a Friday night. It’s just something I know how to do and something I’m OK with, because soccer’s very important to me and something I really want to do. So if I have to make a couple sacrifices to be able to do that, it’s something I’m willing to do.”

Unrath said two of her big goals for this year are to make the playoffs with FC Virginia and to attend a college ID camp. She said her ultimate goal is to play at a Division I college, and perhaps play for the U.S. National team someday.

She said that she owes a lot of her success to her family, including two younger sisters, who have been very supportive of her.

“Luckily I have a very supportive family,” Unrath said. “My dad is still really involved. He practices with me. My two younger sisters, both play soccer recreationally here, and they really enjoy that. They all go to my games. We all come here and practice. We all watch it at home. So we’re all pretty involved.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or