Most young athletes take a similar path through their playing career.
It goes something like play with local teams growing up and keep advancing to a higher level, culminating in playing in high school, and, if lucky enough, in college.
For Elmhurst's Jenna Lundgren and Lombard's Camryn Biegalski, Eclipse Select Soccer Club offered a different route to success.
The local duo competed with Eclipse's 15U Elite Clubs National League squad and recently wrapped up the season. They spent the entire year with the club, traveling around the country on a regular basis, bypassing the high school season and focusing on soccer instead of playing multiple sports.
“It’s the highest level you can play in club," said Biegalski, who will be a junior at Glenbard East in the fall.
Biegalski, who plays right back with the team, played with local club Lombard Firebirds before joining Eclipse in sixth grade to play at a higher level. She played basketball at East for a year, but wanted to dedicate herself to becoming a Division I level soccer player.
The team recently traveled to Seattle for the ECNL playoffs after Eclipse was third out of six teams in the ECNL Midwest Conference, which features just one other team from Illinois. In Seattle the team went 1-1-1 in three group play matches and didn't advance to nationals.
That trip was just another one to add to the sum of major miles logged by the team. Biegalski said the team traveled about twice a month and in the past few months has been to Minnesota, Michigan and New Jersey, in addition to the Seattle trip, for matches.
“During the school year it’s difficult because I have to worry about school and doing well," Biegalski said. "When I’m away I have to do homework and keep my mind focused and ready to play.”
Biegalski is entering the busy recruiting year for her. Coaches are unable to contact her for recruiting purposes until September, but she's already well aware that there will be Division I schools interested in her. That's the profile Eclipse helped provide for her.
Lundgren is a year younger in school, she will be a sophomore at York, but is playing against the same tough competition.
"I like [the travel] because it gives me more time with my team," Lundgren said. "It's hard with your [school] friends because they get mad."
She said the effort the club puts into helping players learn about nutrition and recovery is one of the major benefits they provide. Of course, playing in high-level tournaments with scouts, and sometimes even national team coaches, on hand can create high stress situations.
"There's a lot more pressure because you want to do well," Lundgren said. "You want to do better than last time and it's really nerve wrecking. It's really exciting to play because the fact that you got there is amazing."
Lundgren is one of a handful of York students that play for Eclipse. Recent graduate Catherine Kent played with the Dukes for her senior year after signing with Loyola and was part of Eclipse's U18 ECNL squad this spring. Madison Navarro and Cassidy Privett both play for the U16 team that won the national title at the U15 level a year ago. Navarro and Privett helped the U16 team advance from the playoffs to the ECNL Nationals July 12 to 17 in Richmond, Va.
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