USL W-League Combine a success

USL W-League Combine a success

TAMPA, Fla. – The inaugural USL W-League Combine concluded Sunday at the Ed Radice Sports Complex in Tampa, wrapping up four days of an impressive display of the W-League’s standard of play represented by 128 of its best post-collegiate players.

The professional prospects were continually praised by the coaches and staff from Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) throughout the event as they evaluated their potential players.

“The player level is better at this stage than it was before when we started the WUSA,” said former US Women’s National Team coach Tony DiCicco, who served as the Women’s United Soccer Association Commissioner. “The quality of the amateur players is much better, which will create a very competitive league in WPS from the very first game. Because of the W-League, they have been able to keep playing, keep working on their future. And with the number of teams having increased, more players have been able to take advantage of that opportunity. It is exciting for us as coaches.”

DiCicco went on to add that “With a limit of five internationals per team, more than half of the players will have to come from places like the W-League. Right now the jump from college to WPS is big. Only a few college players are really ready to play at the WPS level and many will have to be in the under leagues to continue their development.”

Washington Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra and Pali Blues head coach Charlie Naimo, the last two W-League championship coaches, were both on hand for the event and were impressed with the talent on the field, conveying that it has been the best the have seen thus far in the scouting process.

“The overall quality is better than what we saw in another combine last week. And that’s not including the top players from my team and others who are not here,” commented Naimo as he relayed his projection that a lot of W-League players would move onto WPS.

WPS League Development & Relationships Manager Aaron Burch was also on hand at the combine.

“In our launch phase anytime we get a chance to see future WPS players it’s pretty special for us. Aside from their great play, there’s a lot of exciting and interesting women participating in this combine. That’s great for WPS and great for our fans. We’re thankful the W-League has been there and will continue to be there providing these players a place to do what they love, which is playing soccer.”

The players were equally impressed with the organization of the event and the level of competition they faced in Tampa. The Northern Virginia Majestics trio of Kelly Hammond, Amanda Detterline, and Tara Kidwell returned home energized with the prospect of playing professionally in 2009.

“The W-League combine was an opportunity that not many will get,” commented Majestic midfielder Hammond. “I feel that it was a privilege to compete this past weekend in Tampa among the best players in the W-League and lucky enough to be on Team 5 with Coach Denise Reddy from Jersey Sky Blue. I am so glad to have met her this past weekend and gain so much insight to the game.”

“I enjoyed the combine,” continued 2007 Majestic player Detterline. “I think it was a great showcase of the talent and skill in the W-League and it was fun to play with some of the top players in the league/country. It also exposed me to the WPS coaches that weren’t coaches in the W-League or in our division that may not have seen me before.”

“As I step back and replay this past weekend, I have many thoughts and emotions,” reflected Hammond. “I walk away knowing exactly what the process will look like over the next few months as rosters are filled with talented players. I also walk away with much thanks to the coaches and programs that have got me to this point in my playing career. And finally, I am filled with absolute excitement and anticipation of what the next few months will tell.”

“The experience was a tremendous opportunity and I owe much thanks to the Northern Virginia Majestics organization that helped me continue to strive for my dream of playing professional,” concluded Hammond. “The W-League is currently the highest level at which women can play and the Northern Virginia Majestics provided a training environment conducive to the next level which ultimately helped while competing during the combine.”

“After college, it’s difficult to get top level competition to keep yourself active, motivated, and playing at the highest level,” added Detterline. “The Majestics and other teams provide players with the opportunity to get in competitive game minutes which is essential in training for the WPS.”
The attention will now turn toward WPS as they begin forming their rosters next week with the allocation of the US Women’s National Team players. The weeks following the allocation of the US internationals will include the draft for top international players and the general draft for domestic and international players.

“From all accounts, the W-League has set the standard to which all other potential players will now be measured against as the WPS teams begin to build their debut rosters,” said W-League Director of Operations Melanie Fitzgerald. “The players not only showed their excellent quality of talent over the weekend, but their dedication by all being prepared for such an elite level combine.”

“Off the field, the combine could not have gone any better,” added Fitzgerald. “The experience of our staff from previous USL events and the efforts of George Fotopoulos and the volunteers from the Tampa Bay Hellenic, who served as host of the event, helped make the combine run smoothly. We are ecstatic that the representatives from WPS enjoyed their time in Tampa and benefited greatly from the scouting opportunity.”
Check out the USLsoccer.com coverage of the USL W-League Combine

USB Player Profiles of the Day (include video)
Day 1: Tara Minnax
Day 2: Jill Oakes
Day 3: Kele Golebiowski

Coach Interviews
Jim Gabarra & Charlie Naimo
Tony DiCicco
Emma Hayes (w/ Marcia McDermott)
FAI’s Noel King
USL W-League Combine Home Page