Serious soccer players deserve a serious send-off.
On National Signing Day at Total Soccer in Wixom, thatâ€™s exactly what was given to a large group of Michigan Hawks and Michigan Wolves elite club players who made official their plans to continue playing the sport at the collegiate level.
â€œThey grow up here at our club and they get to see each other bloom as players and as people,â€ said Hawks/Wolves coach Scott Duhl, also varsity boys soccer coach at Salem. â€œAnd to see the end product of them signing at big-time schools, … itâ€™s fun not only for us as coaches but for parents and friendsâ€™ parents.
â€œItâ€™s just a fun night that weâ€™re trying to make bigger and bigger, to celebrate the players and all the work theyâ€™ve put into it.â€
The Feb. 3 event featured nearly 50 student-athletes, coaches and family members for plenty of ceremonial photos, congratulations and conversation â€” about the role played by the Hawks and Wolves in helping young women and men, respectively, grow into college-bound standouts.
â€œWeâ€™re really fortunate to come from a place thatâ€™s had a lot of success over the years, that is a big draw to players,â€ Duhl said. â€œAnd even myself, Iâ€™m fortunate to work with some good coaches, that have lots of contacts. Because of it, we have over 40 kids signing today.
â€œHalf of them are Division I schools and the other half are really good NAIA, Division II, Division III schools. And places where theyâ€™re really comfortable and excited about going and playing.â€
Ramping it up
Several of those future college players live in Canton and Plymouth, two of the clubâ€™s top areas for recruits (along with Livonia, Novi, Northville and Walled Lake).
â€œCanâ€™t wait to be a Hawkeye, from (Michigan) Hawks to Hawkeyes,â€ said Leah Moss, a Salem senior who is a center-defender for the Hawksâ€™ Elite Clubs National League Under-18 team. â€œIt just happened like that.â€
Moss will be going to play Division I soccer for the University of Iowa, as will Canton High School senior Natalie Winters.
â€œHawks just really helps you because itâ€™s intense and they help you get better soccer-wise,â€ Moss said. â€œGoing there with Natalie? That will be nice, seven hours from home (Iowa City) itâ€™s nice to see a familiar face.â€
Winters, a speedy forward, is in her fifth year with the Hawks after cutting her soccer teeth with the Canton Celtic club.
â€œIâ€™ve known Leah since I was like three,â€ Winters said. â€œI think it (both going to Iowa) was coincidence, mostly, but itâ€™s going to be fun.â€
She stressed that although high school soccer is fun (she is not playing her senior season at Canton, however), â€œclub is more serious and hey help you a lot with recruiting.â€
For anybody hopeful of getting the attention of college scouts, â€œit would be beneficialâ€ to play with the Hawks or Wolves, Winters continued.
â€œWe go to a lot of showcases and a lot of college coaches come and watch us,â€
Plymouth senior Anna DeBiasi joined Moss, Winters and other club players from the Canton and Plymouth communities for a group photo. She also is thrilled about how playing for the Hawks helped her land a D-I scholarship with Cleveland State University.
â€œI really like it, itâ€™s really close to home, and itâ€™s a good college in academics,â€ said DeBiasi, a midfielder who unlike Winters will play this spring with her high school team. â€œItâ€™s D-I, so it was the full package for me.â€
DeBiasi said she benefited from playing both high school and club soccer complemented the other in helping her grow as a player, although her time with the Hawks â€œreally pushed me to be a better player.â€
Also gearing up for D-I soccer is Justin Murray, a senior at Novi Detroit Catholic Central and Canton native who will play defense at University of Detroit Mercy.
â€œHere, I played two years and Canton Celtic for nine years,â€ Murray said. â€œIt just feels like itâ€™s paid off, it really feels good.â€
Murray stressed that playing for the Wolves was instrumental in UDM spotting him and ultimately signing him.
â€œThey offer big tournaments, Disney (in Orlando, Fla.) being one, thatâ€™s where I was seen,â€ Murray said. â€œI think club is more beneficial for a college scholarship. You just see more college coaches, youâ€™re playing better teams. But high school is more pride.â€
Other area players on the Hawks taking part in the National Signing Day celebration included the following: Madison Archibald (Canton HS), Siena Heights; Olivia Janke (Plymouth HS), Valparaiso; Madeleine Lucas (Canton HS), Northwestern); Megan McCurry (Plymouth HS), Siena Heights; and Casey Muglia, (Canton HS), Ashland;
In addition to Murray, area players from the Wolves signing with colleges included Hunter Gibbons, a Salem senior going to Spring Arbor, and Hunter Olson, a Canton senior who signed at Calvin College.
Duhl â€” whose duties at the club include coaching the Hawksâ€™ U18 Black squad as well as the U17 Wolves and U16 Academy Wolves â€” also made sure to praise the playersâ€™ parents for their significant role in helping their athletes stay the course, which veered far away from the clubâ€™s metro-Detroit hub more often than not.
The families â€œprovide a lot for their kids, they give them opportunities to play in our club. They travel and take them all over the country to play in games, different training environments. I think it goes to show you what a great community we have, more so than just a great club,â€ he emphasized.