SOCCER Summer heat: Sparks prepare Duracky for YSU

The former Cardinal Mooney standout is playing with the Steel City Sparks.
STRUTHERS -- Many college athletes find summer jobs working as custodians, in fast food restaurants, as landscapers or in the manufacturing industry.
Katie Duracky, 20, a graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School and a member of the Youngstown State soccer team, found the perfect way to spend her summer -- playing for the Steel City Sparks.
The Pittsburgh-based semi-pro Sparks are a member of the 20-team Women's Premier Soccer League.
When the Giant Eagle LPGA golf tournament is contested at Squaw Creek Country Club on July 12-18, it will not be the only area appearance by a group of talented female athletes.
The Sparks will play an exhibition game against the TCSC Soccer Club All-Stars at the Tri-County Sports Complex in Struthers on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Among Midwest's best
Duracky said she never thought she'd one day be playing with some of the best women in the Mideast.
"I don't think the opportunity is limited to anyone," Duracky said. "If you want it bad enough, anyone can do it.
"I never thought I'd be at this kind of level or get the opportunity. This is definitely a privilege to be on this team."
Chris Quahliero, the director of operations and part owner of the Sparks, feels the exhibition game will be beneficial for the participants as well as the spectators.
"It builds an awareness for high-level women's amateur soccer," Quahliero said. "It provides the opportunity for young players [aged] 16 and under to see and aspire."
After playing one season at the University of Akron and then sitting out last year due to ankle surgery, Duracky was urged to try out for the Sparks. About 40 players reported for tryouts, looking to fill one of the open spots.
After a second invitation-only tryout, Duracky made the team and says she likes playing for the Sparks "better than I thought."
On the Sparks roster are four former professional players and a group of players who have been named All-American.
"They're awesome," Duracky said of her teammates. "They are all unbelievable; they're amazing. You find yourself on the field watching them because they're so consistent."
Duracky plays forward on the "B" team and has scored a few times. In contrast, she's the top scorer in Cardinal Mooney High School history with 128 goals.
Refining her game
"It's not as easy as it used to be," she said of the much-tougher competition. But, she's learning and refining her game.
"I saw what I need to do and what it takes to be at that level," Duracky said.
"It's different playing around here and there; they take it more seriously, it's more competitive in Pittsburgh."
In the fall, she will play at Youngstown State under first-year coach Anthony James. She has three years of eligibility left.
"I'm really excited about playing at YSU for Coach James," Duracky said. "I hope my skills and my personality and my game experience can help those girls become a team. I want it to be a close-knit family thing where we play for each other."

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