Ft. Wayne, Ind. On a weekend when college soccer enthusiasts watch as the No. 1 teams in the nation begin their seasons, midwestern youth soccer players watch in awe as their heroes play in real time in front of them. No longer are the best players just pictures in magazines or names on the internet now they are faces, they are tenacious defenders and attacking midfielders now they are role models.
We know a lot of them from camp they were our coaches, said 11-year old Kelly Karr.
Its cool to see the teams play because they were always our coaches we never got to see them play. They are SO much better than us! 11-year old Erin Beck exclaims animatedly as her camp coach Phil Presser, a senior on the Indiana mens team and native of Ft. Wayne, walks by, and all of a sudden they arent interested in having their names in a story they want to follow Philly. In Ft. Wayne, Phil is their soccer hero.
How could these young players not look up to the men and women playing for their respective universities. The IPFW Soccer Showcase traditionally draws the best collegiate soccer teams in the nation and 2002 was no different. Friday night the NSCAA preseason No. 1-ranked Indiana Hoosiers faced off against No. 20 Kentucky, battling to a 1-1 tie. IU fought without two starters not because of injury, but because Mike Ambersley and Ned Grabavoy are in Spain with the U.S. under-20 National team.
Nearly 4,000 soccer fans showed up at the Hefner Soccer Fields in Ft. Wayne on a Friday night when high school football teams also opened their season. The following morning, 50 youth club teams would face off and later in the day, six high school teams would play, seeking to impress the collegiate heroes whose names they know well.
The participants entered the field Saturday afternoon for the ceremony dedicating the new press box and concession facilities to the benefactors who were instrumental in the creation of the Hefner Soccer Fields.
Watching the under-10 club team from Chicago look to their direct right up at the No. 1-ranked IU team some of the youngsters boasting autographs of IUs very identifiable players - offers some insight into the life of a dedicated soccer player. The dreams of those young club players are the reality of the Hoosiers.
For IU, there was certainly a hometown flair to the weekend as Canterbury High School alums Phil Presser an IU senior and 2001 first-team all-conference sweeper on the mens team - and Kristin Limburg a freshman forward on the womens team - played in the Showcase as local standouts. Not to be outdone, senior defender Carly Everett and junior defender Drew Shinabarger represented their alma mater Homestead by providing their teams with the solid defensive effort they needed to finish the IPFW Soccer Showcase strong.
I coached a lot of these kids in camp and its always fun to have them around., said senior sweeper Phil Presser. They look up to us and having us here is special for them. Tournament setups like this make the kids appreciate the game of soccer much more.
Limburg, a Canterbury alum along with Presser, saw her first collegiate playing time in front of a favorable hometown crowd.
"I was really nervous for my first college game. It's been a lot of fun to play in front of a home crowd and friends and family," said Limburg.
Everett, hailing from cross-town rival Homestead, had similar things to say about playing in a familiar setting with familiar faces.
"Coming back to play in Ft. Wayne is great. I always have fun and enjoy seeing old coaches and friends," Everett said. "This tournament setup is great. We get to meet a lot of kids and become role models for them. It's nice to come home and have everyone see how hard we're working in Bloomington."
Another Homestead alum was proud to play in Ft. Wayne again.
Its awesome to play at home. The environment is great with family and friends around. The tournament setup is what everyone wants to have growing up. Its hard in soccer as a kid to have role models, so weve done what we can to support these kids. With MLS soccer its hard to meet the players but with the top college players in a format like this, the kids are able to see top players first-hand, said Shinabarger.
Pat Yates is the outcast of the Ft. Wayne crew as a Snider alum but holds the same sentiment about coming to play in front of a home crowd in a unique tournament format.
Its really an adrenaline rush to be on the field with this much hometown support. The kids asking for our autographs is great and its amazing to see them into it. Its nice to see them appreciate soccer at this level, said Yates.
Even though these five have moved on to Bloomington and IU to pursue their professional goals off the soccer field, the heated rivalry between the two schools continues. Saturday evening the two high schools faced off in the Showcase and the Ft. Wayne natives were there, proud of where they have come from. The night would end with Canterbury edging Homestead 5-3.
The IU womens team ended the exhibition leg of their season Saturday night, downing the host IPFW Mastadons in a convincing 6-1 victory. Senior hometown favorite Carly Everett would grab an assist on what would become the winning goal while another of the Ft. Wayne Fab Five- Kristin Limburg - netted a goal in her first game at the college level.
The mens team outlasted No. 5 Virginia 3-2 Sunday afternoon to end their preseason exhibition series. Though senior All-American Pat Noonan is not a Ft. Wayne native, he was assisted on the second goal of his hat trick from fellow Hoosier and roommate Presser. Yates and Shinabarger would provide the defensive prowess needed for the victory as IU held the Cavaliers to just six shots to the Hoosiers 12.
This weekend the final exhibition games for both IUs mens and womens teams were held at IPFW in an invariably unique format. To watch as a spectator and see the excitement in the eyes of the young club team players as Phil Presser or Carly Everett agreed to sign an autograph was priceless. The silent gratification Presser, Everett and their teammates had as they signed countless random t-shirts and soccer balls over the course of the weekend was inspiring as well. These collegiate players keenly remember what it is to be a young, midwestern soccer player in need of a role model and can hardly believe they have become the role model for the kids they used to be.
Though the Ft. Wayne Five were able to come home and play as favorites in front of a hometown crowd that is proud of what they have become some of the premier soccer players in the country the entire collegiate field was able to serve as role models, and perhaps heroes, for the kids that will inevitably be the next Presser, Everett, Shinabarger, Limburg or Yates.