North Texas Daily

UNT soccer players star at FC Dallas WPSL

UNT soccer players star at FC Dallas WPSL

July 13
11:15 2012

Ryne Gannoe / Staff Writer

Athletes have variations of the same dream: hitting the walk-off homerun in front of a sell-out World Series crowd, shooting the game-winning three-pointer, nailing the final penalty kick to clinch a World Cup championship.

For most, competing at a professional level will always be just that – a dream.

But UNT students and Mean Green soccer players Michelle Young, Kelsey Hodges, Katelyn Ross and UNT alumna Dani Watson are spending this summer chasing down their professional aspirations by playing for FC Dallas WPSL, a semi-pro team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

“It’s really an honor for me to get to play for this team,” said Young, who started playing soccer when she was 3 years old. “I played for FC Dallas my whole life as a youth player. So getting to play through their semi-pro is probably one of the coolest things ever for me.”

Young, a 5-foot-4 forward with lightning-fast feet, scored 13 goals in 20 games for UNT last season, during which the Mean Green claimed the 2011 Sun Belt Conference regular season title. She started playing for FC Dallas WPSL in the summer of 2011 alongside Ross.

The two were the catalyst for Hodges, a stalwart defender and – along with Young – a 2011 All-Sun Belt player, and Watson, a threat at any position on the field, to join the team.

“The UNT team has a lot of potential,” Young said. “I started this but I wanted to share it with the girls that I know are really talented and have a lot of drive that I know will help us. I would do anything to make our team better.”

Ross transferred to UNT last year from Texas A&M-Commerce, leading newcomers in goals. The outgoing forward was the second-highest scorer for FC Dallas WPSL last year.

Watson, who played at UNT from 2009 to 2010, is a well-rounded player who can pass, defend and score without breaking a sweat.

Hodges said playing in the 66-team WPSL not only helped players sharpen their skills, but also improved the Mean Green’s chances for success in the 2012 season.

“There is a high-quality of play here,” Hodges said. “With a bunch of other players from other, bigger schools, like Big 12 schools, it’s definitely beneficial.”

The Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) folded last year after a drawn-out legal battle with one team’s owner and ongoing internal struggles, leaving a void at the top of women’s soccer in the U.S. To try and fill that void, the WPSL this year created the WPSL-Elite League, a professional-amateur league made up of eight teams.

Players and coaches for FC Dallas WPSL said their goal was to make the leap to the Elite League and go fully professional.

“I think all of us here hope that coming back around and getting the chance to play [pro] would be kind of a dream come true for all of us,” Hodges said. “We’ve been told that if we continue to do well in our league down here, in this league some day we might get that chance to build an actually pro league team here in Dallas.”

FC Dallas WPSL head coach Darrin Hedges thinks the team could expand into the WPSL Elite within the next two years.

“That would be the lasting vision,” Hedges said. “That would be the apex for me. Even if I’m not the coach, just to have a pro team here in Dallas with all the talent we have here.”

Hedges said playing for FC Dallas WPSL allows women on the team to chase their dreams of going pro.

But it remains an uphill battle. Women’s professional soccer is battling to even exist, and Hedges said WPSL Elite needed good corporate backing to become a professional soccer powerhouse that could afford to pay its players.

“The NBA has the WNBA,” Hedges said. “The MLS needs the WMLS. I hope for the women in our game it does.”

As of July 5th, FC Dallas WPSL led its conference with an 8-1 record. The team’s final regular season game will take place Sunday, July 15 at 1 p.m. at Dr. Pink Field in the FC Dallas Complex.

UPDATE: FC Dallas WPSL finished the regular season with a 12-1 record and clinched the Big Sky-South championship. The team is now preparing for the WPSL playoffs.

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