Breakout year for East Islip U-15s shows Tri-State talent wealth
The Tri-State region is one of the most saturated areas in the nation for elite youth soccer, with renowned clubs like PDA, NJ Stallions, Empire Revolution, New York SC and Match Fit Academy, just to name a few, regularly developing some of the top players the United States has to offer.
Mixed in with the well-known ECNL and Development Academy member clubs is one of the deepest talent pools anywhere in the country, where premier players and teams emerge even from lesser-known clubs.
One such team is the East Islip SC Red Storm U15 girls, who recently closed an already remarkable 2014 campaign with a championship at the prestigious Massapequa Winter Showcase.
Coming from the small, tight-knit Long Island community of East Islip, the Red Storm knocked off teams from Smithtown Kickers SC, Capital United and host club Massapequa SC to capture the top U-15 division at the event which annually hosts a select group of the best Tri-State area competition. The Red Storm went 3-1-0 over the Dec. 13-14 weekend, winning an all-Eastern New York group while allowing just two goals in four games. Both goals conceded by the Red Storm came in a hard-fought 2-1 loss in group play to a nationally-touted Alleycats SC side.
Forward Amber Birchwell, one of the team’s top collegiate prospects likely with a Division I future, netted three goals at the Massapequa Showcase to spearhead the attack. Defender Lindsey Brunner led the East Islip back line in securing three clean sheets over four games.
Massapequa is the latest in a string of high profile events where the East Islip U15s have gone toe-to-toe with some of the region’s and subsequently the nation’s best competition, not only holding their own but winning most of their matches. They posted impressive wins over PDA and New Jersey Crush before losing an evenly-matched final 2-1 to New Jersey powerhouse Toms River FC Everton over Thanksgiving weekend at the National Elite Women’s Soccer Showcase, another small but high quality event on Long Island.
The Red Storm were finalists in the second division of the Bethesda Tournament in mid-November, beating Pennsylvania East State Cup finalist LDC United Hurricanes 2-1, PDA Pride 2-1 and tying South Jersey Elite Barons 2-2 before losing to the 2014 ECNL U15 National Champion Maryland United 4-0 in the final. Also in 2014, the Red Storm advanced to the final at the MSSL Summer Showcase and FC DELCO Players Cup, and finished fifth in the Spring EDP League 1st Division North.
For the Red Storm and other elite teams from clubs in the peripheries of the Tri-State soccer scene, regularly competing with the regional powers over the years has done wonders in their own rise to prominence.
“If you look at the Tri-State area you never have to drive too far to play at some great events, and there are so many teams that you’re always finding high level competition,” said East Islip coach Joe Grippi.
“Kids in this area are getting into soccer at a very young age, and there are a lot of opportunities for them to train and develop,” Grippi continued. “These kids just love playing the game, and they know the only way you get better is by playing against teams that are just as good as you or at a higher level.”
Grippi’s Red Storm team was formed five years ago and is composed primarily of players who came up through the East Islip SC Intramurals Program and chose to pursue travel soccer. Along with Birchwell up top, goalkeeper Lydia Kessel and playmaking center midfielder Hannah Franco are among the team’s top college prospects.
The Red Storm will continue their showcase schedule in 2015 with the Manhattan Kickoff Classic in late February, and will await their placement in the Jefferson Cup coming up in March.