SLSG Begins Year Round Play for High School Girls

Meet the 2013 SLSG Girls Select Spring High School squad
Back Row Left to Right: Tara Sullivan, Courtney Kaplan, Allison Birke, Alex Schmitz, Paige Brown, MaKenzie Crawford, Marisa Kutchma
Front Row Left to Right: Becca Schamel, Maggie Richard, Adalie Schmidt, Danielle Tolmais, Sarah Wachter
Not Pictured: Emma Farley and Nicole Ortega

Year round competitive club play for High School girls has arrived in St Louis. Announced simply, via Twitter, was this note from Scott McDoniel, Director of Coaching for SLSG Girls

Begun with an evening out, some bonding time for the new squad, on the same day that High School practice was initiated in Missouri. An initial squad of 13 that is expected to grow with a few more players, begins play on March 14th with a game at the Soccer Park against the D2 UMSL Tritons.

Born from a need identified by the girls, according to my conversations with the trio of Coaches that are charged with developing the team and the players. Steve Pecher, Director of Youth Program Development – Missouri Girls, Scott McDoniel and new full-time coach Ralph Richards (from SLU) sat down with me on Wednesday to discuss the team and it’s genesis.

The club has trod this path previously. A two-year effort in 2007-2008 as part of the Red Bull League that featured Molly Huber (Missouri State/Ursuline), Jordan Woolums (Indiana/Lafayette) who played both years, and others including Nicole Breece (Illinois/Parkway South), has found new opportunity with the development of the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL).

The Coaching staff pointed to this early effort as offering several benefits, the principal one being entry in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) from the outset when the Red Bull League folded. The ECNL is recognized as the top Girls League in the country with a separate competitive structure from USYSA. Within the Midwest Conference SLSG competes against some of the top Clubs in the country – Eclipse Select (Chicago), Michigan Hawks and Sockers FC (Chicago) – who are already offering year round play. SLSG Select, as the individual team that has been created at this time is being called, will not participate in those games at this stage, but it points to a path that the club can pursue within the existing structure of their teams and the league.

Another benefit that accrued from the early effort was a core of players that experienced the difficult decision this can be, thus the #COURAGE hash tag included in McDoniel’s initial tweet and something that will likely continue to be emphasized throughout the season. The Club vs High School conversation is one that still draws strong opinions and will find new life with this initiative. What is the objective and how can it be measured is a question I asked the coaching staff.

Development is the primary answer. A look at the roster (listed below) shows a range of ages, like any high school roster might but dissimilar to a comparable club squad. Results will not be measured by a win-loss record, especially with the competitive schedule that’s been pulled together (listed below). It features games against five of the six NCAA Division II college programs in the area along with a pair of College Showcase tournaments. Challenging games for the Club girls, less so for the College teams but Spring rosters are often limited and if I’m a coach, I jump at the opportunity to be seen as supporting this effort and the recruiting possibilities it offers.

As much as I like High School soccer (I covered 40 games last Spring alone) the season is a grind, focused on managing a game schedule that reached 30 games for the Class 2 Champion St Dominic Crusaders in 11 weeks. That is not a recipe for development but as their Division 1 prospect and junior central midfielder Molly Ream noted on Twitter this week

This was from an ECNL competitor who returned home from her final Club game in Arizona after midnight Sunday before dressing for High School tryouts on Monday.

There were two primary benefits identified for the girls from my discussions with the staff. The first, for the juniors and seniors, is a focus on preparing for their college careers. That is where the difference in schedule will be most pronounced and similar to their peers on the Academy side. A higher ratio of training to games and exposure to the area college programs will offer that. The younger players have the same focus although with a longer term view obviously.

On a final note, I reached out to Molly Huber, who recently transferred to Missouri State University from Kentucky. I asked her about her experience five years ago and if she had any regrets. Her response below echoes what Nicole Breece told me last Spring.

I 100% loved Red Bull. It was an amazing experience and amazing competition.

Nope. I mean sure it was a hard decision but the experience I had I wouldn’t change for the world

Player position High School Class College
Paige Brown GK Jackson Sr Louisville
MaKenzie Crawford GK Fort Zumwalt West So
Becca Schamel B Nerinx Hall Sr Arkansas
Allison Birke B St. Dominic Jr Iowa
Sarah Wachter B Villa Duchesne Sr Rhodes
Alex Schmitz B St. Dominic Jr Indiana State
Maggie Richards MF Fort Zumwalt West Sr Indiana State
Marisa Kutchma MF Incarnate Word So
Danielle Tolmais MF Lafayette Sr Memphis
Emma Farley MF O'Fallon Christian Fr
Courtney Kaplan F MICDS So
Tara Sullivan F New Berlin So
Adalie Schmidt F Incarnate Word Sr Iowa State
Nicole Ortega F Springfield Catholic Jr Arkansas

February 25, 2013 – Spring Players Dinner
March 14, 2013 – Match vs UMSL 7pm @ SOCCER PARK in Fenton
April 5, 2013 – Match vs Quincy 8pm @ SOCCER PARK in Fenton
April 7, 2013 – Match @ McKendree 2pm @ McKendree in Lebanon
April 9, 2013 – Match vs Maryville 7pm @ SOCCER PARK in Fenton
April 13, 14 2013 – Cincy Blue Chip @ Cincinnati
April 21, 2013 – Match @ Columbia College 1pm @ Columbia
May 11, 12 2013 – Eclipse College Showcase @ Chicago

Other Matches versus boys & women’s teams
March 9, March 28, April 25, May TBA

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