By Kaeley McEvoy
The largest women’s soccer league in the world, the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), kicked off its 15th season this weekend. With 65 teams spanning five divisions across the entire United States, the WPSL looks to have one of its most entertaining seasons since its establishment in 1998. The addition of nine extremely competitive teams such as the Bay Area Breeze, West Coast Wildkatz, F.C Bucks, Minnesota Kings, Chicago Red Stars, Albany Alleycats, F.C Dallas, Arkansas Comets and Tampa Bay Hellenic serves to heighten the already narrow race for the championship in each division. In this 2011 season the minuscule difference between entering the post season as a league champion and ending the season in late July lies in the hand of the player who dares to make an impact, rather than the history of the club. This season, history means nothing. The results from the first weekend of competition certainly reinforce this prediction.
On Saturday, May 14, the newly established Bay Area Breeze took on the 2010 Pac North Conference Champions the California Storm. The Breeze, based out of Dublin, Calif., walked away with a one-goal advantage over the Storm. Former National Team star, Brandi Chastain (California Storm) was sent off six minutes into the first half for committing a foul after the whistle, giving the Breeze an opportunity for success. Bay Area midfielder Lauren Alkek provided the Breeze with their first goal of the season in the 60th minute of play on assist from yet another former U.S. Women’s National Team player Tiffeny Milbrett. The Breeze were able to hold the lead for the remainder of the second half. Head Coach Terry Foley remarked on his Twitter that the win, “was a good result, as we were missing a lot of players.” The next test for the Bay Area Breeze will come on Saturday, May 21, when another new program, the Orange County Waves, travels to Dublin, Calif., for their first game of the season.
In the Big Sky conference, the Southern Division opened games this weekend with tremendous results for the newly established F.C Dallas. The new female counterpart of the MLS F.C Dallas Club tallied four goals this weekend against the also brand new American Eagles Soccer Club.
The reigning champion of the Big Sky Conference, Alliance F.C., also started their season with a statement on Saturday when they netted five goals on Houston South Select. The North Division of the Big Sky conference will kick off on Saturday, May 21, when the Salt Lake City Sparta take on in-state rival Utah Starzz.
The opening weekend for the Northeast Division of the East Conference of the WPSL ended in a set of two ties, leaving the field open for any team to establish themselves as a front-runner next weekend. The 2010 National Champion Boston Breakers Aztec Reserve team found themselves tied 2-2 with Seacoast United of New Hampshire on Saturday. Aztec forward Carson Laderoute tallied her first goal of the season six minutes into the competition. Another Aztec goal followed in the 67th minute of play by midfielder Caitlyn Flynn. Seacoast forward Caitlin Flynn responded in the 70th minute of play by notching a goal. A corner kick from Emma Clark three minutes later provided Danielle Courtemanche the opportunity to net the equalizer for Seacoast.
On the other side of the Northeast Division, SoccerPlus CT Reds kept the New England Mutiny at a scoreless tie on Saturday. Mutiny veteran forward Jenny Maurer had a plethora of opportunities on net in the first half but the Reds young keeper Leigh Ann Jaggon was able to post a shutout for SoccerPlus. The Mutiny will travel to Florida next weekend to compete against the newly established Tampa Bay Hellenic on Saturday May 21, while the Reds will face Seacoast on their home field in New Britain, Conn., on Wednesday May 18.
The opening weekend of the WPSL certainly invoked belief that the 2011 season will be the league’s most competitive venture yet. Next weekend promises to only bring more excitement as over 25 games will occur over the span of two days.