Last fall, then-sophomore defender Emily Carroll was one of the most reserved members of the Elizabeth Seton soccer team.
Now the outside left back is the vocal leader of a back line that has recorded two shutouts in six games.
The transformation, Carroll said, came during the summer, which she spent playing on the Prince George’s County-based Maryland Capitols women’s semi-professional soccer team.
“It just helped me open up and become a different person. Now I’m the loudest person on the team. I’m sure it gets annoying after a while,” Carroll said. “Playing with older women, two of them were former Washington Freedom players and a lot of them were Division I college players, raised my confidence and made me realize that I can play any level I want to. And I became a more relaxed player.”
Seton teammates senior midfielder Tiffany Gales and freshman striker Hope Micallef achieved similar ‘a-ha moments’ with the Capitols.
The team, which featured several former professional soccer players and current NCAA Division I athletes, won the Women’s Premier Soccer League Eastern Conference South Division title in its inaugural season.
CEO David Jones announced last month that the Maryland Capitols FC will launch this country’s first-ever female-only professional Soccer Center of Excellence in affiliation with Torino ACF, Italy.
Females throughout the county and whole Washington metropolitan area will have the opportunity to mature as soccer players in a professional environment such as Carroll, Gales and Micallef.
“We wanted to see how successful the WPSL team was going to be before we tried to move on,” Jones said. “We were two or three games from going to the national tournament, which I think is pretty good for the first year. So, we could have either turned around and picked back up in February or March and tried to generate more interest or keep progressing and so we decided we wanted to move on.”
Beginning next spring the Capitols will go by Torino ACF USA and will aim to recruit female soccer players ages 9-and-younger to 18 who are looking for a professional soccer education.
The organization, which will be based out of a soon-to-be finalized site in Prince George’s County, will provide, in conjunction with Torino’s professional academy, a fully integrated support infrastructure system that includes high school educational counselors, college preparation advisors, sports and spine injury rehab and prevention experts and qualified diet and nutrition specialists, according to a news release.
The academy teams, Jones said, will look to compete in top youth soccer leagues and tournaments in the United States but also will participate in an exchange program with Torino ACF teams.
“A lot of good organizations in Maryland provide good opportunities. With us you get so much more, when you consider the support system infrastructure in place, we have tutors, college counselors, clinical psychologists. And on top of that, all our trainers for all our teams will be female only,” Jones said. “Other clubs once you reach college age, it’s like, ‘Thanks for being with us,’ and you’re left to your own devices. But we have our WPSL team and Washington Area Women’s Soccer Reserve team for those not ready for the WPSL yet.”
Carroll said she always has been a big supporter of women’s soccer — Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain were her favorite players to watch.
But Carroll also always assumed that the only way to continue playing competitive soccer after high school and college would be to make the Olympic team.
The Capitols and WPSL, Carroll, Gales and Micallef agreed, have opened their eyes to a world of opportunities.
In turn, they added, they would like to enlighten their Seton teammates on what could lie ahead.
Listening to the trio’s summer experience, first-year Seton coach Amanda Lebo said, does serve as motivation to some of the younger players.
“I think [Carroll, Gales and Micallef] have brought a level of professionalism to high school soccer,” said Lebo, who plays for the Chesapeake Charge WPSL team. “[Playing with the Capitols] made them smarter players overall.”