News and Announcements
By Dave Oberhelman, the Daily Herald 2/7/13
The relationship between club sports and high school athletic programs does not have to be adversarial.
On Wednesday 20 members of the Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo girls soccer club team, all of whom are seniors playing for their respective high schools, signed National Letters of Intent to programs as successful as UCLA, Wake Forest and Notre Dame.
“One of the neat things in it, too, is all these kids play high school soccer,” Elite Academy director, coach and Naperville resident Phil Nielsen said.
Team Chicago Academy was formed by Hudson Fortune, whose dual-citizen daughter, Leah, starred at Wheaton Academy, played on the Brazilian National Team and in 2011 helped Lee University win the NAIA title a fourth straight time. Botafogo staff include Phil Nielsen, Neuqua Valley girls coach Joe Moreau, Metea Valley boys coach Josh Robinson and Pete Lambert, an assistant on Julie Bergstrom’s Waubonsie Valley girls team. Bergstrom is also involved.
“I don’t believe that there’s a club team out there in the country this year that has a more impressive list of schools that their players are committing to,” Nielsen said.
In January in Orlando, Under-18 Botafogo became just the third girls team in history to go unbeaten, 7-0-0, in the U.S. Youth Soccer National League. Over the current season the girls are 23-0-1. In 2011-12 at U17, Botafogo finished third at the USYS Nationals.
According to Nielsen, members of the Class of 2013 who signed letters of intent from Botafogo included: Class 3A state champion Naperville North’s Zoe Swift (Kentucky); Waubonsie Valley’s Rachele Armand (Louisville), Karla DiJohn (Notre Dame), Jenna Romano (Wake Forest) and Kendall Wilde (Illinois-Chicago); Neuqua’s Zoey Goralski (UCLA), Hope D’Addario (Illinois), Gianna Dal Pozzo (Miami, Fla.) and Brooke Ksiazek (Illinois State); York’s Bryce Banuelos (West Virginia); Metea’s Kiley Dunning (IUPU-Fort Wayne) and Megan Geldernick (Ohio State); Wheaton Warrenville South’s Dana Miller (Miami, Ohio); Hinsdale Central’s Darby Moran (Wisconsin-Parkside); and Glenbard South’s Dani Pitaro (DePaul).
He said he’d rather work with high school coaches and programs than fight them. Nielsen appreciates the social and leadership development high school programs provide, the different setting, the greater press coverage and fan support.
“We were third in nationals last year,” Nielsen said, “and none of those (games) came close to the fans who go see Waubonsie Valley-Neuqua Valley or Wheaton Warrenville South-Wheaton North.”
Team Chicago Academy-Santos center-back Rachael Brots has accepted a great scholarship offer to continue her career at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Rachael, who plays her prep soccer for Head Coach Julie Bergstrom at Waubonsie Valley H.S., will be part of Cougars Head Coach Derek Burton’s 2014 recruiting class.
The SIUE Cougars are part of the NCAA Division I Ohio Valley Conference. Rachael will join fellow Team Chicago Academy player Jorie Clawson who is part of the 2013 Cougars recruiting class
Team Chicago Academy-Santos goalkeeper Courtney Keefer has committed to University of Illinois to continue her soccer career as part of Head Coach Janet Rayfield’s 2014 recruiting class. Courtney, who plays her prep soccer for Head Coach Joe Moreau at Neuqua Valley H.S., will join fellow Santo and Wildcat Olivia Schmitt at UofI.
The Illini soccer program is one of the premier programs in both the BigTen and the country. At UofI Courtney will also join fellow Team Chicago players Hope D’Addario and Meegan Johnston who are both part of the 2013 recruiting class.
Team Chicago Academy-Internacional midfielder/forward Sam O’Brien has accepted a great scholarship offer to continue her soccer career at Northern Illinois University. Sam, who plays her prep soccer at West Aurora H.S., will be part of NIU Head Coach John Ross’ 2014 recruiting class.
The NIU Huskies belong to the NCAA Division I Mid-American Conference.
Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo forward Kendall Wilde has accepted an athletic scholarship to continue her soccer career at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Kendall, who plays her prep soccer for Head Coach Julie Bergstrom at Waubonsie Valley H.S., will be part of UIC Head Coach Brian Rigby’s inaugural recruiting class.