Area standouts can get caught between high school, club soccer

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Sunday, October 17, 2021 | 7:36 PM


Morgan Einodshofer is piling up goals for the Belle Vernon girls soccer team. She also is piling up frequent flyer miles.

“Over the next eight weeks, we have tournaments in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio,” the senior midfielder said. “It’s going to be a lot.”

Einodshofer plays for the Century United soccer club, now part of the newly formed Girls Academy League, which brings together the best prep players from across the nation.

The new league, while beneficial on many levels including college recruiting and top-tier competition, has created a tug-of-war for girls from Western Pennsylvania who want to play cup and high school soccer.

The girls are being pulled in two directions as they build on their careers.

A week for players like Einodshofer can consist of one or two club practices, three high school practices and two or three high school games.

Then, she plays cup tournaments on the weekends.

The most down time she gets might be when she’s waiting for corner kicks.

“If we have a Saturday game (at Belle Vernon), I have to choose between cup or high school,” said Einodshofer, who has 29 goals and 23 assists this season. “I want to devote myself to my team. It’s just less than ideal when you feel like you have to squeeze it all in.”

Michigan does not have girls soccer in the fall, instead playing in the spring, so its players aren’t facing the grind that players from the WPIAL are this season.

In the past, the Development Academy was the main club-based league. But that was dissolved last year when the covid pandemic began to run its course.

Development Academy League players were not permitted to play high school soccer in the past, which also led to its breakdown.

Like some subplot in a Star Wars spinoff, a number of former DA clubs came together to form the Girls Academy, which spans the country.

The riff has caused clubs to compete for players — and their time.

Norwin seniors Emma Rigone and Paloma Swankler play for the same Beadling Club team and also trek across the country before resuming play with the high school Knights.

“It is challenging but manageable,” said Rigone, a Youngstown State commit. “There have been days where I have played two games back-to-back, or on our rest day for high school I am traveling to play a GA game. Recovery days are very limited. Personally, I love doing both.”

Rigone said conditioning is the big key to the double duty and long weeks.

“I worked hard on my fitness, so doing both has not been an issue physically,” she said. “The pace of the GA games helps my ability to play faster on the high school field.”

With many girls still “prioritizing” high school soccer, Rigone said some cup teams have small rosters and short benches.

The grueling, on-the-go nature of the predicament pales in comparison to what really matters: the players’ health.

With little recovery time in between games and workouts, girls are often being stretched thin.

“No one could look at this and think it’s good for the players,” Franklin Regional girls coach Scott Arnold said. “It definitely greatly increases the risk of injury.”

The local Beadling club also is a member.

With teams in Wisconsin and Minnesota, among other far-off places, local players have to fly to play games.

The travel costs have caused some players to stop playing travel or high school.

Take Brownsville senior Tessa Dellarose, a standout scorer who has committed to North Carolina. She did not play high school soccer this season, instead giving her time fully to the Riverhounds Academy.

Her move paid off as she received an invite to the elite U.S. Under-20 Camp in Chula Vista, Calif. Dellarose plays in the Elite Clubs National League, which begins its season after high school play in the fall.

“My decision to not play high school was because I wanted be able to begin my prep for UNC as early and at the highest level of focus possible, and that was going to be achieved by not playing high school,” Dellarose said. “Also, the risk of injury is present at any level of soccer, but for me, especially at the high school level, and after just coming off a hamstring injury from the summer, I did not want to add an extra stress and potentially reinjure it or injure another body part.”

Dellarose said she has more time to train with her club team and work with a strength and conditioning coach “with no limitations,” she said.

“And as an added bonus, I have more time for school work, which has proven to be extremely helpful this year,” Dellarose said.

Mt. Pleasant coach Rich Garland has long been active in high school and cup soccer but believes in players committing to one or the other.

He asks his players to give 100% to the high school team until the season ends.

“We have developed a training program here that gets the girls prepared for 18 games in six weeks,” Garland said. “It’s all built in: rest, nutrition, training and recouping. When you do outside (events), that disrupts everything we’re trying to do and breaks it up.”

Garland said the strict adherence to the regimen is why his team could handle back-to-back section games last week against Yough and Southmoreland.

Arnold said in some cases, high school and club coaches are discussing ways to limit players’ training and overusage as part of injury prevention.

“I feel really bad for players who have a competitive high school team,” Arnold said. “I coach both club and high school, and I can say with certainty that high school soccer is very meaningful to the players. There is much more emotion playing local high school rivalries than some random club team from another state where you don’t know anyone on the opposing team. There are more life lessons to learn when you are part of a high school team that has players from four grades.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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