Vermont Fusion blazes path for women’s semi-pro soccer in the Green Mountains
MANCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont is taking a shot at women’s semi-pro soccer. Olivia Lyons spent some time with the state’s first team in Manchester to learn how important the team is for the state and young female soccer players.
The Women’s Premier Soccer League has 135 teams across the U.S. and Canada. Vermont Fusion is the eighth team in the Metropolitan Conference North Division. “It’s sort of been a dream to play at the highest level possible. I never really thought there would be a team at this level in Vermont,” said Cricket Basa, a center forward for VF and current soccer player for the University of Vermont. “I think it’s sort of the beginning of something great.”
Basa and other players hope this kickstarts more teams around the area. Most teammates are current college students with many from local colleges. Some women came to play from as far as Chicago, Colorado, and Hawaii. But a few, like Brooke Jenkins from Rhode Island, are recent grads. “For the summer, we’re all trying to get fit and prepare for our next step, whether that’s trying to play professionally or playing in a college season, but we all want to win. We’re here to win,” Jenkins said.
And winning is something they are good at. The team has already qualified for a championship match and become fan favorites at Manchester’s Applejack Stadium.
“We’re thinking 500, 600 people. When you have 800, 1,000, that’s even better, and some of our players have never played in front of that,” said John O’Connor, the team’s head coach.
Because of COVID, the team was put together with coach recommendations and video submissions, but in the future, there will be tryouts. O’Connor says they are holding a “combine” in Manchester, bringing together teams from other countries and giving players the opportunity to be picked up for professional teams. “We have some players here that, I think, if they have that as a goal, they can do that,” he said.
But another important goal for the team is inspiring more young women to play the game. “It’s also cool, after we’ve played the night game, a couple of girls came up to me after and were like. ‘It’s amazing to watch you play and be able to think that could be me one day.” So, yeah it really is amazing,” Basa said.
The team’s last home game is in Manchester on Saturday at Applejack Stadium.
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