8-10 p.m. Fri., March 10
The Neighborhood Academy, 709 N. Aiken Ave., East Liberty
Shin guards, soccer cleats or indoor soccer shoes required.
For many athletes, there aren’t always options to continue competitive play after college graduation. For women seeking soccer leagues in Pittsburgh, recreational games might not provide the level of competition they seek. That was Stephanie Harrison’s situation, and she decided to do something about it.
“There’s some really fun pickup [games] around, but nothing like the high level I was competing at,” says Harrison, founder and general manager of Steel City Football Club, a women’s minor-league soccer team. “I looked around and I saw that there were two men’s teams in our area, and I wanted that same kind of outlet for women.”
In 2015, Steel City FC was officially sanctioned in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. The WPSL is an independent league consisting of more than 100 teams in North America. Steel City plays in the Great Lakes Division, composed of teams from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.
“It’s so awesome, especially for me,” says Steel City defender Jordan Daloisio, who attended Clarion University. “For me, I had been out for a couple of years after playing in college. You still have that want to play. Once you play at a high level, you don’t want to play with people who aren’t competitive.”
The WPSL takes competition to a level higher than college play. Players have moved up to professional teams after playing with WPSL clubs. “It’s definitely more competitive than in college,” says Steel City goalkeeper Laura Saussol, another Clarion alum. “Girls are faster and more skillful as a group, whereas in college, teams had players that tended to be individually skilled.”
Beyond league play and training, Steel City FC, and all WPSL teams, are involved with community outreach, including assisting with youth soccer programs.
“I liked the mission and values of the league, so it’s nice to be a part of something bigger than just soccer,” Daloisio says.
For its first two seasons, Steel City played at the Ellis School in Shadyside, but growing attendance has led to a search for a new venue. The 2017 season begins in May.
Open tryouts begin March 10, and Harrison says the team is searching for “players who love the game” and says new players will be “welcomed and challenged.”