|Alison Sorkenn is in the back row, next to coach Brian Fiedler. On bottom row, Randi Smith is first on the left and Rachel Sorkenn is second from left.|
a local trio of 14-year-old soccer stars – Alison and Rachel Sorkenn of River Edge and Randi Smith of Wayne – competed on a gold-medal-winning team in the Orange County JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest, held August 4 though 9 in California.
The Olympic-style competition and show attracted some 2,350 Jewish athletes and artists, from 12 to 17 years old, from across the globe. They were joined by 800 host families and 1,500 volunteers. The sports included baseball, basketball, dance, golf, inline hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, softball, table tennis, tennis, track and field, and volleyball
Alison and Rachel’s father, Jonathan, said that this was the first time a girls soccer team was included in JCC Maccabi; the first North American games were held in 1982. He and his wife, Jodie, went along to cheer on their twin daughters.
All three girls play for the NJ Crush soccer club in Franklin Lakes. Each took up the sport as a preschooler.
“I love playing soccer – I was brought up with it,” said Randi, who soon will begin her freshman year at Wayne Valley High School.
“I like how competitive the girls are,” said Alison, who is a goalie. Her sister plays forward.
Their team advanced to the finals and defeated an under-16 girls soccer team from Los Angeles, 7-1, to take the gold. Each of the nine girls on the team received a medal.
The team was recruited and coached by Brian Fiedler, the father of one of the girls, through the JCC MetroWest in central New Jersey.
“My dad heard about it and asked me if I wanted to try out,” Randi said. The teammates only had two or three practices before leaving for California. “But we all kind of knew each other, and we were all confident we were going to do well,” she added.
The JCC Maccabi Games are held each summer in many North American sites and involve more than 6,000 participants. The Games are co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, Maccabi World Union, Maccabi Canada, and Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel.
The JCC Maccabi ArtsFest, begun in 2006, features workshops, performances, exhibits, community service, and social activities in an atmosphere emphasizing Jewish heritage, community, and Israel.
“I didn’t know there were so many Jewish kids from all over, like Mexico and Great Britain,” Rachel said.
The Sorkenns are members of the Bergen County YJCC in Washington Township, and of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge. Alison and Rachel, both entering River Dell High School in September, hope to play on the varsity soccer team.
Randi, an outside midfielder and forward, said she enjoyed meeting people from different places. “It was weird to actually think everyone was Jewish and that there are so many Jewish athletes,” she said. She and her parents, Sharon and Steve, are members of Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne.