Since early May, JR Balzarini has spent numerous nights at the Medford Athletic Complex training SUSA Academy’s first Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) squad.
The team, which consists mostly of current Division I and Division II players at colleges such as St. John’s, University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Adelphi and LIU Post, will kick off its season June 2 with a home match against New York Athletic Club at Bayport-Blue Point High School.
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“It’s been an exciting time and we’ve put together a good squad,” said Balzarini, the team’s head coach who also serves as SUSA’s technical director. “We have had 95% attendance at our training sessions and they have practiced hard, pushed each other and are ready to put on a good show.”
SUSA will spend its first summer in WPSL’s East Division — Metropolitan Conference along with Long Island Fury, NJ Wildcats, New York Athletic Club and Rhode Island Rogues.
According to Balzarini, the seeds of SUSA’s WPSL team were planted in the summer of 2017 when the academy formed an EDP team at the behest of one of its girls’ directors. An application was then filed with the league by SUSA, which received its acceptance letter in December.
This summer, in addition to the WPSL team, SUSA will also have EDP teams at the U20 and U23 levels along with a reserve U23 side.
Initial tryouts for the WPSL team attracted about 50 local players, but interest continued to grow thanks to word of mouth and SUSA’s connections to college coaches, Balzarini said.
“We had a need for a large number of players and now have 80 players on the four teams,” he said. “They clearly wanted to play for us and play in an environment where they will be pushed but also have fun.”
As Balzarini has worked to bring the team together, meshing players from various teams in a short period of time can be a challenging endeavor for any coach. But, he noted, the focus has been on core elements of the sport.
“We have paid attention to speed of play and being technically sound,” he said. “No matter what program they play for or the style of play, they will need to play fast and need to be technical.”