DeKALB – In its first year of existence, the DeKalb County United’s under-23 women’s team won its league, was a semifinalist in the state cup and earned a slot in an upcoming tournament of champions.
And they’ve done it with a roster in which 12 of the 23 players have ties to DeKalb County, with most of the others coming from Kane County.
|DKCU player||DeKalb County Tie|
|Anna Dudziak||DeKalb (Aurora Central Catholic grad)|
|Litzy Murrieta||DeKalb/Kishwaukee College|
|Darian Lucas||DeKalb/Kishwaukee College|
“From the start we all came together,” said Jenna Lewey, who plays for NIU after graduating from Sycamore. “From our first few practices and our first game we clicked really well. Everybody was on the same page. It helps that a lot of us have played together at some point in our careers, but also the new people have come in and stepped it up.”
The team rolled through the Illinois Women’s Soccer League with a 7-0 record, including a win in the league’s finale against the Rockford Raptors. The Raptors had knocked United out of the state cup in the semifinals.
The teams will play a rubber match in the season series at noon Saturday in Rockford in the first round of the U.S. Adult Soccer Region 2 Tournament of Champions.
“It’s exciting for sure,” said coach Dan Carl, who also is a coach on a DeKalb County-based club, Northern Illinois Football Club. “We didn’t win the state cup, which was a little goal for us, but since we did well enough in our league and in the state cup they invited us to come.”
United goes into the tournament after a 5-2 home loss to the Chicago Mustangs on Saturday in a non-league friendly.
Carl said it’s been a balancing act bringing in players from different college programs and different backgrounds and melding them together. He said it’s about staying positive and providing challenges to the players.
“It’s what we’re built on. We’re a community club,” Carl said. “Having these kids back and want to play in their community and for us is fantastic. We’ve got girls from different programs all over the place. We didn’t come here to change the way they play. We came here to build chemistry with the group and how they feed and grow off each other.”
“We know how each other plays,” DeKalb graduate and current Carthage player McKenna Wallin said. “But coming from different areas there are always the basics. Everyone is pretty level in that way. We still challenge each other a lot, but when it all comes together it flows really nice.”
The success has just been the cherry on the sundae, Wallin said.
“It’s been a great environment,” Wallin said. “It’s really competitive and has just been a rewarding process to see the results and be successful.”
Carl said in the state cup game against Rockford, United stormed back in the second half but couldn’t finish the job, falling on penalty kicks. But they won the rematch last week to secure the perfect record in league play.
Now United goes for a second straight win against the Raptors in the postseason tournament.
“We just need to know we’re going to see tough teams and it’s going to be competitive,” Lewey said. “Some of the teams this summer we’ve played have been good, some have been easier games for us. We can’t let that get in our heads, and we have to come out ready to play.”