NC Courage Academy defender Maggie Pierce discusses transition from ECNL to Girls’ DA

With kickoff of the inaugural U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy season less than a month away, U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team and North Carolina Courage Academy midfielder Maggie Pierce shared a few thoughts from a player’s perspective on the transition from ECNL and high school soccer to the Girls’ DA model:

Transition from ECNL: “In terms of the differences between GDA and ECNL, the biggest change is that the main ECNL season was 5-6 months long, but the GDA season will be about 10 months long. This change should be good for our training and our team because we will have more time to work on specific training points and we will be together all year. With ECNL we would train for 5 months, then stop ECNL training to play in high school, then play in some ECNL showcases, and then we just had a few weeks to train as a team before we played in ECNL Nationals.”

High School Soccer: “While the GDA 10 month commitment is good, we all seem to have different opinions about not being able to play high school soccer if we want to stay rostered on our GDA team. Some girls say they won’t miss high school soccer, but some really enjoyed playing and will miss it. I was lucky to be on a good team at Cardinal Gibbons with a good coach like Michele Miller, so we not only had fun but we also had some good training and we ended up making it to the NC 4A State Championship. But we all understand the benefit of training at a high GDA level for 10 months.”

Girls’ DA Competition: “Even though a lot will change with GDA, some things will stay the same for us because we will have nearly the same GDA roster as we did with ECNL, and while our games will be against different teams (because we played in a division against mostly Virginia and Maryland teams last season and we will play in a division with mostly Georgia and Florida teams next season) a lot of the players we will compete against will be the same girls who played ECNL last season. The University of North Carolina [Pierce’s college commitment] coaches talk about trying to play and train at the highest level possible in the most competitive environment in order to prepare for college play, and that is what the GDA is supposed to give us, so I think that the new format will be good college preparation.”

NWSL Connection: “Maybe the most exciting part of the GDA is that we will be called the NC Courage Academy and we will be aligned with the new NC Courage NWSL team here in Raleigh and Cary, NC. The Courage just moved here from New York, and they won the NWSL championship last year and are having a good season, so we have enjoyed watching them play and meeting some of them. I am a midfielder, so have really learned a lot from watching players like McCall Zerboni and Sam Mewis and we look forward to working with the pro players.”