For Shattuck St. Mary’s, Jefferson Cup worth the extended ride
By Jimmy LaRoue
Midlothian, Va.–Shattuck St. Mary’s Sabres international mix of Under-16 and U-18 players took 26 hours to get from Fairbault, in southern Minnesota, to Richmond, Va., carefully navigating a Midwest snowstorm to expose their talents to the hundreds of college scouts in attendance.
“I think it says a lot that it’s worth it for us to be on the bus for 26 hours to get here,” said Shattuck St. Mary’s director of coaching Mike Elovaara, who also coaches the Sabres. “I think in a nutshell it says it all about Jefferson Cup and its prestige as a showcase tournament for our girls.
Elovaara said he purposefully brought a mix of sophomores of juniors because those are really the classes that college coaches want to see.
“Our juniors and sophomores, this is a great opportunity to showcase their abilities in front of college coaches,” Elovaara said.
He has been at Shattuck St. Mary’s since May, arriving in Minnesota after working as an assistant coach in the women’s soccer program at UNC-Wilmington. Elovaara also played for the Seahawks, and also played professionally in the Finnish first division for his hometon team in Oulu.
“It’s a big change, obviously, because we truly have the four seasons in Minnesota,” Elovaara said. “Just this past week, we’ve probably gotten15 inches of snow, so weather-wise, it’s definitely different, but in the end, working at an academic institution with a soccer program is very much the same as well.
As a boarding school, Shattuck St. Mary’s draws its players from the surrounding area to include northwestern Wisconsin, as well as overseas–from countries such as New Zealand, Germany, Canada, U.S. and two from Finland who didn’t make the trip. About 35 percent come from the surrounding Midwest area, 30 percent are internationals and the rest from other states.
“Each girls ends up at Shattuck in an individual way, but many of them seek us out and then others are ones where we contact based on somebody’s reference,” Elovaara said.
The international blend of soccer gives Elovaara exactly what he wants.
“I think it’s the game of soccer, really in a nutshell,” Elovaara said. “When you think about it, it’s a global game, but always strong local roots. It’s great for our girls that they get to have that experience at the high school age. They’re roommates with kids from different countries.”
Beyond soccer, the school also has strong programs in other sports, including hockey. And the boarding school concept, he says, helps with the bonding process. He said he wouldn’t have left UNC-Wilmington, his alma mater, for any other opportunity.
“It’s very rewarding to get to put your effort and energy to help those girls to pursue their dreams and goals,” Elovaara said.
And so far, so good in the Jefferson Cup. After an opening 4-0 win over McLean, Shattuck St. Mary’s picked up a second win Saturday with a 2-1 defeat of Montgomery United Black Storm. The Sabres will play Omega SC Select Black Sunday to wrap up the showcase.
He said in spite of the team’s bus breaking down after arriving at River City Soccerplex Friday, things are going well.
“Doing different things I think it’s important because yes, it’s about soccer, but it’s about all the other things too,” Elovaara said. “We try to find a combination of showing them a little bit of the places we visit while trying to keep our main focus on the games.”
Safe to say his plan has been successful.