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Missing: Midwest U24 All-Star Tournament

  • 29 Mar 2019


Purdue University was home to the first Midwest LAU U23 All-Star tournament in 1999, one year after Bryn Chivers and Tammy Cowan created the Midwest U23 Thunderbirds and took the select side on tour to Atlanta. The Thunderbirds and the tournament incentivized LAUs (generally, states) to develop all-star programs for their college-aged athletes, cultivate high-performance experiences, and open avenues to opportunities at the regional level and above.

But that relationship was complicated with the dawn of collegiate conferences, which removed collegiate leagues from the jurisdiction of the Midwest Competitive Region (CR) and thus placed focus on senior clubs. Since the college conferences don’t pay dues to the Midwest, the LAU all-star teams expanded their age grade to U24, thus allowing senior club players to participate and tying the Midwest CR to the event. But this year, the Midwest withdrew its financial support of the tournament.

“All of the coaches involved in the Midwest all-stars, or who want to be involved, are upset,” said Charli Jacoby, one of four coaches for the Illinois Collegiate All-Stars (ICAS). “This tournament has been around forever. It’s where Steve Murra and previous coaches would come to scout players and invite them to try out for the Midwest Thunderbirds.”

So rather than just lament the tournament’s disappearance, Jacoby (Illinois), Meghan Flanigan (Iowa) and Xane Gerasimo (Wisconsin) started collaborating in an effort to keep the tournament alive and provide the next-level opportunities that players clearly wanted. These states, along with Minnesota, committed to an all-star event on April 13-14 in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and continued preparations regardless of the Midwest’s involvement.



“We’re really trying to create a high performance program in Illinois. We have a staff of coaches, Lauren Trout of Chicago North Shore, Gavin Mullan and Mathew Wagner of the Chicago Lions and [manager] Amy Martello, also of Chicago North Shore, who all want the same thing – more playing opportunities at a high performance level for the college grade athletes.” Jacoby said. “We planned our tryout six months out, had 40-plus girls come out to the day-long event, and let them know which 25 players were selected in the next day or so.”

See roster below.

Some of the other Midwest states’ all-star teams are either rebuilding or playing one-off games closer to home. Prairie States, for example, is playing the Iowa All-Stars this Sunday in Iowa Falls. The four teams competing in Iowa Falls the following weekend are among the most consistent, and it doesn’t hurt that organizers Jacoby (Chicago North Shore), Flanigan (Twin Cities) and Gerasimo (Twin Cities) are all college coaches and active players.

“We play for our own clubs, which helps recruitment [for the U24 all-stars] and we have really strong relationships with the local colleges,” said Jacoby, an Eagle pool player. “If you create memorable experiences and learning opportunities for the athletes, then they’ll become loyal to the program and return the following year. I played in the LAU tournament in 2012 and 2013 where I then went on to play for the Thunderbirds in Canada and Wales. It was an experience I will never forget. Xane, Meghan, and myself are all products of our state all-star teams, the Midwest Thunderbirds and we now represent our Women’s Premier League clubs. That is how you grow the game! We just want to create the same opportunities for the athletes in our states that we were given.”

“If you think about the Thunderbirds, or a regional all-star team, you’re talking about 23 athletes who make the team – maybe 100 try out,” Gerasimo said. “But when you look at each state having their own all-star team, now you have expanded the opportunity to play up exponentially. There are many college athletes who don’t know how good they are, and for them, playing for a state team is likely to be the thing that springboards them on to play for a regional team, and it almost always gets them to keep playing after college.”

The Midwest U24 Thunderbirds have new staff in head coach Luke Markovich (Notre Dame College) and assistant coach Desiree Markovich (Pittsburgh Forge, Moon Area HS). They’re leading a U24 clinic and selection camp on April 7 in Schaumburg, Ill., and a team for the 2019 Can Am Tournament will be chosen from these attendees. The organizers of the April 13-14 all-star event in Iowa Falls have invited two USA staff members for scouting purposes.

Sarah Berry – Chicago North Shore
Cristina Bravo – Chicago Lions
Mary Carter – Northern Illinois University
Gabriela Chapin – Chicago North Shore
Alba Corney – DePaul University
Bridget Foreman – Illinois State University
Maya Fridae – Illinois State University
Maura Gilbert – Northwestern University
Rachel Grecky – Chicago Lions
Hannah Henry – DePaul University
Benjamin Hershik – Chicago Lions
Emily Hudak – Rockford Ravens
Riley Korczak – Chicago Lions
Grace Lee – Illinois State University
Jessica Lisy – Depaul University
Megan Loomis – Chicago Lions 7s
Mariah Martinez – Illinois State University
Betty Nguyen – Chicago North Shore
Selena Ohuafi – University of Chicago
Francesca Pedersen – DePaul University
Edyta Tarczynski – DePaul University
DaNesha Telfair – Northern Illinois University
Gabriella Thomas – University of Chicago
Natalia Zawadzki – County Will Morrigans

Charli Jacoby – Head Coach
Lauren Trout – Assistant Coach
Gavin Mullan – Assistant Coach
Matthew Wagner – Assistant Coach
Amy Martello – Manager


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