Junior Lindsey Brauer’s 2.43 points per game average last season was ranked sixth in the NCAA. ORACLE FILE PHOTO
Most collegiate athletes spend the offseason attempting to perfect their abilities, and the women’s soccer team is no different.
This summer, six players on the USF women’s soccer team played for the Tampa Bay Elite, a team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).
Formed in 1998, the WPSL is the highest level of women’s amateur soccer. The players included the Bulls’ 2006-season leading scorer Lindsay Brauer, Autumn Browning, Jeannette Dyer, Mallori Lofton-Malachi, Paulina McIntosh and Melanie Sutherland.
Not only were the six current USF players on the team, but there were also several USF alumni: Jenna Ball, Danielle Malkin and Ashley Quaid.
“When you play with veterans, it kind of brings the level up a little bit,” said Brauer, entering her junior season with USF. “Just because they’re older and have played longer.”
Before Brauer joined the Elite, she played in Richmond for a W-League team, which is the highest level of women’s soccer in the United States and Canada. Upon returning to Tampa to finish school, she joined the Elite.
The Elite isn’t comprised solely of USF athletes; players from the University of Tampa, University of Central Florida, Florida State University and St. Leo University are also on the team.
The WPSL has 38 teams in six regions across the United States. Tampa Bay Elite is a member of the South region, which also includes the Central Florida Strikers, Miami Kickers F.C., Orlando Falcons and Palm Beach United.
The Tampa Bay Elite finished the regular season with a 6-0-2 record and defeated the Denver Diamonds to advnace to the national semifinal.
“We made it to the Final Four, which was really exciting,” said Brauer.
Brauer scored the Elite’s only goal in the national semifinal match-up against the New England Mutiny. Despite the goal, the Elite lost the game on penalty kicks.
Brauer and McIntosh were selected to the Final Four All-tournament team.
Also honored over the course of the WPSL season were Dyer and Lofton-Malachi. Dyer was chosen third team all-WPSL and Lofton-Malachi was selected South Region co-goalkeeper of the year.
“It’s a great opportunity to get great training over the summer, stay in shape and prepare to come into preseason,” said Browning, a senior midfielder.
Like Brauer, Browning joined the Elite late in the summer after playing in another league.
“They (the coaches) do their best to make sure everyone’s on a team for the summer,” said Browning. “Just so they know we’re getting the work in.”
Even though many of the players join summer leagues, their focus remains on USF soccer. The goal is for each player to improve individually, thus benefiting the team for the next season.
“They’re a great coaching staff,” said Browning. “It’s a really great team and it’s going to be a real exciting year.”