UWS Midwest Conference Week 1 Preview: Six of the seven teams in the newly-formed conference kick off this weekend
After the conclusion of their inaugural season, United Women’s Soccer promised fans that the pro-am league would see new horizons for the Summer 2017 season. That promise came true as the seven-team Midwest Conference was officially announced this past December.
Six teams will kick off the first-ever Midwest campaign this opening weekend and will look to either make their name or cement their reputation on the national soccer landscape.
SATURDAY, MAY 13
Grand Rapids FC vs. Michigan Legends FC
7:00 PM EDT – Grandville H.S.
Anticipation has been high in the greater Grand Rapids, MI-area as the GRFC organization officially announced a women’s side to compliment their highly successful men’s team. In due course, the GRFC Women and Head Coach Lewis Robinson have assembled one of the stronger rosters in the newly-formed Midwest Conference. Attendance figures for the men’s side over the past few seasons have been eye-watering and all signals indicate that the GRFC Women will have an outstanding fan base to support them in their home opener.
A trio of locally-based stars will lead the team in their inaugural game: defender Clare Carlson, midfielder Marti Corby and midfielder Annie Steinlage. Carlson finished her Grand Valley State University career as a 3-time All-American and was part of three Division II National Championship sides. Corby was eligible for the 2017 NWSL Draft after the end of her stellar GVSU career (61 goals) and a call-up to U-23 USWNT camp. Steinlage played collegiately at MSU & Virginia and led UVA to the Final Four. In 2013, she was drafted by the Western New York Flash (NWSL) before playing overseas with Finnish side Vaasa IFK.
Michigan Legends FC Head Coach Saimir Rada – a former professional who holds a UEFA ‘A’ license – has extensive experience in Livingston County soccer which should help ensure that the organization’s first year is a success. Rada has put together a young and exciting roster this season chocked full of collegiate talent. Leading the way is defender Avery Hay, the 2016 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year and All-BIG EAST Freshman Team member for DePaul University.
Indy Premier SC vs. Toledo Villa FC
7:30 PM EDT – IUPUI Carroll Stadium
Indy Premier SC kicks off their inaugural season at the national pro-am level at the impressive Michael A. Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI. The stadium has a 12,100 capacity and also serves as the home pitch of the Indy Eleven of the North American Soccer League (NASL). IPSC has a deep roster and it looks like there will be interesting competition at two important positions on the pitch: goalkeeper and forward.
A young goalkeeping corps is led by Sarah L’Hommodieu, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Freshman of the Week last fall for Indiana University. She started in all but one game for the Hoosiers with a 7-8-4 record (1.56 GAA, 93 saves). IU team captain Kayla Smith (started all 20 games in 2016) will anchor the midfield. IPSC has youth and experience at forward: Kelly Renie, the first Ole Miss Rebel to be named SEC Freshman of the Year (2002) and Freshman All-America; U.S. Under-18 forward Lauren Rice who has verbally committed to play for the University of Wisconsin; and Hannah Leinert, a NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region and All-MVC First Team selection at Illinois State (2013-14).
Toledo Villa FC will be led by a pair of women this season – Head Coach Lori Williams and player/coach Ella Walsh. Williams has coached the Anthony Wayne H.S. Varsity girls team for 14 seasons. In addition to her high school team, she is on the Olympic Development Staff at both the Ohio North and Region II levels. Walsh is a native of Swansea, Wales and has represented her country at the U-15/16 and U-19 levels and played club soccer for Swansea City Ladies FC from 2008-2011, competing in the European Champions League (2010 & 2011). The TVFC roster is stacked with talent from the University of Toledo and Bowling Green University.
SUNDAY, MAY 14
FC Indiana vs. Detroit Sun FC
2:00 PM EDT – Newton Park
FC Indiana is one of the more storied franchises in pro-am women’s soccer history, winning national championships at the U.S. Open Cup and WPSL levels, while also reaching the heights of the now-defunct W-League. History meets the future as they host the first-year Detroit Sun organization at New ton Park in Lakeville, IN. FCI will take on the challenge of the newly-formed UWS Midwest Conference and have a strong roster in their effort to reach another National Championship tournament.
Its no surprise that FCI has once again rolled out an internationally-based roster. In goal this season, there will be strong competition between former Minnesota Golden Gopher Tarah Hobbs (All-Big Ten Second Team) and Andrea Vera, who was part of the Ecuadorian squad at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Shek Borkowski’s connection with the Puerto Rican Women’s National Team manifests in defender Kelley Johnson and forward Laura Suarez. FCI captain & Indiana University midfielder Annelie Leitner will suit up for her fifth season, and is fresh off a call up to the Austrian Women’s National Team for the 2017 Cyprus Cup.
The Detroit Sun started their first year as a pro-am side on a strong note when they hired Skipper Mukhtar as Head Coach. Mukhtar has won multiple State Championships and led his teams to the 2014 USL W-20 & 2015 WPSL W-20 National titles as well as the 2015 WPSL Great Lakes Division crown. The Sun have a diverse roster led by University of Iowa and U.S U-20 Women’s National Team midfielder Natalie Winters. Other top signings include 2016 Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year Rachel DeLuca, U-20 Colombian Women’s National Team midfielder Maria Jaramillo and Bulgarian Player of the Year Evdokia Popadinova.