The past two years have been a whirlwind for Julia Raich, the Camp Hill sophomore who seemingly does nothing but win.
Already a two-time District 3 team cross country champion, a District 3 soccer champion and PIAA state silver medalist, and a 2018 District 3 girls basketball champion, Raich brought her winning ways across the Atlantic Ocean as part of the United States Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program.
Raich spent April 14-22 in Germany for the U.S. East Region team, helping win three games, training with some of the top young female soccer players in the nation and touring the country and some of its soccer facilities.
It has been an “amazing” experience, the four-sport athlete told The Sentinel during an email interview while she was in Deutschland.
“Playing the game I love against other countries (and winning), representing the USA, is definitely my favorite part of the trip,” Raich said.
She spent more than a week, and all her Easter vacation, training, competing and touring. Among some of her highlights:
- Three wins against German teams (“Go USA!” she said), including three goals and “multiple assists” for her team
- Staying in Olympiapark, in Munich
- Touring Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, and watching the pro team play
- Visiting Marienplatz, Neuschwantstein Castle, the Austrian hills where The Sound of Music was filmed, and Salzburg
- Eating at a hofbrauhaus
- Catching two pro games, Augsburg beating Stuttgart 6-0 in Bundesliga men’s action, and Barcelona beating FC Bayern 1-0 in the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals
Raich called her trip to Germany a bonus. She said when she originally tried out for the ODP, her goal was to make the East Region inter-regional team and compete in Boca Raton for the inter-regional tournament in November.
Making the international team — the top 13 players from the East’s inter-regional team’s 18-player roster — and flying to Germany was something she never expected.
There are four ODP regions in the states (east, west, midwest, south). To make one of those teams in any age group involves a five-day camp held in the summer — the east’s tryouts, for players in 14 states, are in New Jersey.
There are fewer teams per age group the older a player gets, Raich said. As a sophomore, she can only make one regional team now. Hundreds of players try out, with lists updated twice daily to know where each player stands. At the end of the last tryout, Raich said she made the 2002 (birth year) regional pool of 28 players, the 2001-02 inter-regional team, which includes just 18 players from the two age groups, and the 2001-02 international team, which is the 13 best girls from the inter-regional team. She is also on the Pennsylvania ODP team.
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“The regional camp is an unbelievable experience,” said Raich, who also plays for the HMMS Eagle FC club team in central Pa. “It is intense. There are hundreds of players competing and every day, all day, you are evaluated by coaches while training and playing games.”
The grind could take its toll, if the midfielder/forward were to let it. During the fall, she plays for the Lions’ soccer team — which has made consecutive District 3 Class 1A championships since she joined the varsity team — and runs cross country. She also plays for the girls basketball team and runs during track and field season in the spring.
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It takes a lot to balance those sports with the travel of club and ODP soccer, plus homework.
“It is super fun and rewarding, but also very challenging balancing all my commitments,” Raich said. “I love it all. All my coaches (and teammates) have been very understanding about some conflicts from the outset. … The Camp Hill administration and teachers have been very accommodating and I am dedicated to getting the work complete. I understand the importance of representing myself, my family, Camp Hill, and my other soccer affiliations like Eastern PA ODP, East Region ODP, and HMMS soccer club.”
While playing in Germany is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime trip, there is another tangible benefit for Raich: college exposure.
“Selection to the East Region team and my performance has definitely increased my exposure to colleges and the national pool which is having an enormous impact on my soccer career,” she said.
Raich said she wants to play at the Division I level in two years, but her plans are in their infancy. She only just started thinking about the type of schools she wants to consider when her recruitment kicks off, and will attend “specific college ID camps” soon.