By Alex Frazier
For six former Suburban One League soccer players who play for the U-19 FC Delco Fury, this year’s trip to Nationals was another exercise in futility.
After going 0-3 last year, the girls were hoping to parlay that experience into some wins this year.
But once again they failed to come home with a victory.
“It’s not what we hoped for,” said Dana O’Brien, who played for William Tennent.
Besides O’Brien, former teammate Brittan Spence (William Tennent), Meghan and Courtney Collins (North Penn), Lisa Philbin (North Penn), Kim Speese (Central Bucks South) and Caroline Williams (Wissahickon) are also members of the team.
The Fury lost two one-goal games (2-1 to the Colorado Rush and 3-2 to BUSA 90 Elite) before falling to eventual national champion Eclipse Select 89-90, 4-0.
The girls could take some consolation in the fact that the Colorado team beat them 3-0 last year.
“This year we gave them a run for their money,” said O’Brien. “We had them the whole game.”
In the second loss, BUCA scored its first goal five yards offsides and another goal following a handball that wasn’t called in the box.
“It was brutal,” said O’Brien. “We just got unlucky with our calls that weekend.”
Out of contention for a title, the third game was a complete letdown.
“Everyone was kind of bummed out,” said O’Brien.
The Fury’s past achievements, however, may mollify some of the sting of losing to the three best teams in the country.
The U-19 girls have been sensational in state and Region One, winning five consecutive state titles and two straight regional championships.
“We’ve had great past years,” said O’Brien. “We played great together as a team. It’s a great group of girls. Everyone meshed so well together. The past two years at Nationals we were just very unlucky.”
Playing for a team like FC Delco is both an honor and a credit to their talent.
As a club, Delco was ranked No. 1 in the United States in 2004 by Soccer America, the leading national soccer publication in the country. Soccer America also ranked FC Delco No. 2 in the U.S. in 2005, No. 5 in 2006 and No. 6 in 2007.
The Delaware County soccer club was founded in 1989. Since then it has won seven USYSA National Championships, 32 Region One and 98 state championships.
Many of its players have gone on to excel in the collegiate and professional ranks.
Since its formation in 2002, the U-19 Fury, which starts six SOL players, has competed in 15 tournaments, winning 10 and finishing second four times.
“I don’t think anything compares to Delco,” said O’Brien. “It’s a great program. Every time people say, ‘What club team do you play for?’ I say, ‘FC Delco,’ and they’re like, ‘Oooooh.’ It’s a great club. Everyone looks out for the best interests of everyone.”
All six girls have enjoyed success at the college level, in great part because of their participation with FC Delco.
Philbin, for one, never played in the ODP program, but as it turned out, she didn’t need to. Playing for Delco, she had plenty of exposure to college coaches.
“It gave me a really good opportunity,” she said. “Otherwise I would never have gotten noticed or gotten recruited college-wise. One hundred percent that was the reason I got recruited. I became so much of a better player. It was such a step up.”
Sisters Meghan and Courtney Collins parted ways after graduating from North Penn, but were reunited on the soccer field (of course) last fall.
Meghan went to the University of Massachusetts, where she is majoring in business, marketing or advertising, while Courtney took a more eastern route to Providence College. She is undeclared for a major at present but is exploring the possibility of teaching.
Although Providence didn’t have as good a season as expected, according to Courtney, the Friars managed to eke out a 1-0 victory over UMass, giving Courtney bragging rights, at least for one year.
“It’s never happened before, but it was fun to see what her team was like and where she goes,” said Meghan.
Meghan started most of the games at UMass at either center midfield or outside back. She registered two assists.
The two sisters will face off again this year in Amherst on Sept. 4.
Courtney also played against another one of her high school teammates, Lisa Philbin, who played forward and outside midfield for Marquette. She, too, is undecided on a major but is considering nursing or medical school.
Philbin’s playing time was severely limited due to a reaction to a vaccine she had taken. Having run track her whole life where she developed her speed and endurance, all of a sudden she couldn’t play more than 10-15 minutes before she was exhausted and had to come off the field.
She started a few games in the fall and a few more in the spring. Meanwhile, she is seeing a neurologist and immunologist at Johns Hopkins University to try to find a cure.
She rested for the first six weeks of the summer and played only a few minutes for Delco.
“It’s been a crazy ordeal,” she said. “My doctors don’t want me overdoing it. It’s been pretty much a nightmare. Hopefully it’s made me stronger in the long run, having to deal with such a traumatic experience.”
When Marquette played Providence, Courtney marked her for the 10 minutes she played. It was ironic because the two had been playing on the same teams since they were nine.
“It was so strange,” she said. “We hugged each other when we saw each other before the game and then we were opponents. It was the most bizarre experience.”
The two Big East teams played to a 1-1 draw.
“We hugged again after the game and walked off and talked to each other for a while,” said Philbin. “It was nice to play each other even if we weren’t on the same team.”
They, too, will meet again this season at Marquette, hopefully with Philbin able to play more minutes.
O’Brien and Spence had also been high school teammates at William Tennent.
O’Brien didn’t have to travel far to play her college soccer. In fact, just 13 miles to LaSalle University.
This year she will be rooming with three other girls from her Delco team.
Last year, she started about half of the games for the Explorers at forward, leading the team in goals with nine in addition to one assist.
She was also named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team and was named A-10 Player of the Week twice.
“I didn’t know of any of those things until this year, so I thought that was awesome getting that,” she said.
Currently she is majoring in sociology, but that is not necessarily what she will end up with.
“I already changed it once,” she said. “It’s all up in the air. My typical life would be playing soccer for the rest of my life. That would be great, but it will probably be something with sports.”
Spence traveled the farthest for college, all the way to Tampa.
“I’ve always wanted to go to school in Florida,” she said. “When I visited Tampa, I realized I wanted to go there, and they had a great education program.”
Spence is majoring in elementary education with the goal of teaching kindergarten.
“I’ve always been babysitting and working with kids,” she said. “They have a really good program for that.”
She scored nine goals playing outside midfield and forward for the Spartans, who made it to the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“At first I got a little homesick,” she said, “but I got used to it right away. The girls on the team all got to know each other very well, quickly. It made things a lot easier.”
Although Kim Speese is the lone player from Central Bucks South, she is very familiar with the other five, having played against them in the SOL as well as with them on FC Delco for five years.
“All the girls are my best friends,” she said. “We’re just such a good team. We work well together. It’s always fun when I’m with them.”
Speese played every game at left defense for Towson, where she is majoring in business/finance.
“I actually played defense, which was new for me,” she said.
Finally, Williams, who has played for Delco for three years, was sidelined this summer with an ACL injury she incurred on Nov. 14 of her freshman year at Penn. It happened during practice on a breakaway.
“I planted wrong and just tore it,” she said.
She might have been able to play this summer for Delco, but it was risky and she didn’t want to risk injuring herself for her sophomore year in college.
She was cleared to play on Aug. 5, just two weeks before pre-season begins.
It was her second torn ACL. Ironically, she tore her right ACL in her freshman year playing basketball at Wissahickon.
“I’ve been around this block before,” she said. “It makes me feel better there was time apart between my tears. In college I found so many people that tear it back-to-back. That’s scary.”
The game before she tore her ACL, she had played against O’Brien, when the Quakers blanked LaSalle, 2-0.
“There was a little rivalry between us because she’s a forward and I’m a goalie,” she said. “I got knocked a couple of times. We’re both very intense people when we’re on the field.”
Fortunately, O’Brien didn’t score on her.
“It was nice,” said Williams. “I wouldn’t have heard the end of it.”
She was particularly happy with the win because the LaSalle coach was her former Delco coach, and many of her friends from home came to the game.
Williams played in four games for Penn, starting two, including the first game against Pitt. For the season, she made 16 saves with a 1.26 goals against average.
Although Williams hasn’t declared a major yet, she is leaning toward sociology with a minor in classical studies, perhaps with an eye to attending law school.
Like the other players, Williams can’t give enough credit to the Delco program for developing her as a player.
“Without Delco, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” she said. “Coming in freshman year from Nationals, I thought I had an advantage over many people because I was playing right up until August. Especially for a goalie, the best way to train and get ready is by playing. Being on a team like Delco we had such a support system. We were always pushing each other. The level of college is similar to what we played at Delco.”
This is likely the last time the girls will be playing together as a team, though there is a chance they might get together again for an U-23 team.
Having missed out on this summer’s trip to Nationals, Williams, for one, is eager to get back to Delco next summer.
“Given our team, we would have a huge, huge chance to make it to U-23 Nationals,” she said.
“We all talked about getting together again,” said O’Brien. “We want to continue playing for as long as possible. I’m pretty sure it will happen. We have a bunch of girls who want to play soccer and not be away from the game too long.
“It’s the goal to try to get a championship.”