After a whirlwind day of traveling, SJEB FC will take the field at Oklahoma State tonight with a trip to a national final in the Women’s Premier Soccer League in their sights.
The South Jersey term earned the trip after capturing the Eastern Conference title on Sunday at Mercer County College, despite being short on bench options after playing through two extra time periods and a penalty shootout two days earlier.
“It’s a very special moment for the club,” coach Bill Shute said in a phone interview from Stillwater. “Some of these girls are girls that I coached when they were nine years old so it’s really awesome to get to showcase their talents on a national stage.”
Shute said that of the 15 players suiting up for tonight’s game against Colorado Rapids Women, 12 played at the youth level for the South Jersey club. Twenty-four of the 31 players on the team’s summer roster played for the club’s academy.
One of those players with extensive experience with the club is Amanda Attanasi, a James Madison sophomore from Washington Township.
“It feels good to be back with the girls I’ve played with since I was nine,” Attanasi said. “We added a couple girls here and there and we have a pretty big, agile roster.”
Like many teams in the WPSL, the summer schedule for college students means a lot of different lineups and changing availability from game to game. SJEB went 5-1-1 during the regular season in the Colonial Conference and earned the playoff big when Penn Fusion (7-0-0) opted out.
“The chemistry even though we all haven’t played in many games together, it’s kind of tight just because we all have the same goal,” Attanasi said.
That goal this weekend is to cap their summers with a national championship before reporting back to college training camp.
“They’re going to be back in a week with their college programs but the lasting effects of even reaching this level are there,” Shute said. “For the younger girls in the program to see what they can achieve but also for them to just represent the club and South Jersey on this level is something they won’t forget.”
Tonight’s game is scheduled to kick off at 9:15 p.m. eastern time and will be broadcast live on Eleven Sports. A GoFundMe has been set up to help cover the travel expenses for the trip, which had to be booked last minute once they won the game on Sunday and involved a few hiccups getting everyone there.
“It all adds to the story,” Shute said.