YSU goalkeeper Mia Railing played for both squads.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- Following Wednesday's exhibition game between the Steel City Sparks and the TCSC All-Stars, the future of the Youngstown State women's soccer team appears to lie in good hands.
And the overall direction of Mahoning Valley's women's soccer seems headed in the right direction.
Despite the Sparks winning 6-0 at Tri-County Sports Complex, the All-Stars stood toe-to-toe with their semi-pro opponents, taking no quarter from the talented, more-organized opposition.
Mia Railing, the YSU's regular goalie, played the first half for TCSC and put on a clinic.
"She's a very good goalkeeper," Chris Quahliero, director of operations for the Sparks, said. "I'm anxious to see her [at YSU] and maybe have the opportunity for her to participate in the future."
In the second half, Railing played for the Sparks and wasn't tested.
A graduate of Wheeling Park High School (Wheeling Park, W. Va.), Railing has two years remaining with the Penguins.
Of her performance in the first 45 minutes, Railing said she "was happy with it, pretty much."
Scores three goals
Lauren Sessleman scored three times for the Sparks, including a goal with the game about 20 minutes old.
Sessleman is an All-Big 10 first-team forward at the University of Purdue and a native of Green Bay, Wis. A junior, Sessleman is trying out for the U.S. under-21 national team.
Sessleman shot from in close but was turned away by Railing in dramatic fashion. The rebound was tapped in for a 1-0 count.
The exhibition game was put on to expose the area to the Sparks and serve as an example of what high-level play looks like up close.
"They're awesome," Maggie Vinopal, 14, an eighth grade student, said of the Sparks. "They play well as a team together and they're smart with the ball."
Vinopal has eight years of soccer experience and likes to play in the midfield.
Will she someday play on a quality team, like the Sparks?
"I hope I can; I hope to be good enough to play with them," Vinopal said. "You learn a lot from people who have a lot more experience than you. They make smart passes."
One of the best chances the All-Stars had came late in the first half when Brittny Humphrey split two defenders and raced down the left wing.
However, after a good run she failed to get off a shot. A recent graduate of Liberty High School, Humphrey will attend either Bowling Green or YSU.
Chrissie Abbott, from North Olmsted, was a two-time first-team All-American at the University of West Virginia, and played forward for the Sparks.
"I think it's nice to come out here and play teams like this and give them the opportunity to see where they can go and what they have ahead of them," Abbott said.
The Sparks (6-1) are tied for second place in the 20-team Women's Premier Soccer League.
Rebecca Marrie, 14, a goalie on the Cardinal Mooney High School junior varsity team, identified two factors that made the Sparks a superior team.
"They're fast and they have good foot skills," said Marrie. "And their keeper is really good."