For high school athletes, it’s one thing to get to represent your school at the state level. It’s another to get to represent their state on the regional level.
That's exactly what the members of Muscatine Soccer Club 2003 will get to do as they head off to represent Iowa in the 2019 Midwest Presidents Cup.
To make it this far, the team’s journey started back in October in a play-in game. In winning that, they moved to a qualifying round in Des Moines. Ultimately, the team won the state-level competition by beating the Cedar Rapids team on penalty kicks.
“(The state competition) was a great experience because I’ve been playing with these people since I was like six,” said defender Kylie Randoll, a freshman from Muscatine, “so it was great to win with them.”
Now, they head to Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, and will compete in front of college scouts and coaches (from junior colleges to Division 1 programs) as well as compete against teams from across the Midwest. The winner of the tournament will get to move on to a national tournament in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“My philosophy is if a kid wants to continue their soccer career beyond high school there’s a place for everybody,” said Muscatine 2003’s head coach Megan Randoll.
The tournament provides the team a gauge as to how they stack up against a diverse group of opponents.
“Being able to compete against new teams and seeing what it takes to get to the next level,” said Faith Rains when asked what she’s looking to get out of the competition. Rains has started for the North Scott varsity in each of the past two seasons as a freshman and sophomore.
As opposed to playing for their respective high schools, the tournament divides teams up by age, not school. The team's name derives from 2003 being the cutoff birth year to be on the team.
"(Playing for Muscatine 2003) is just a different experience," said Olivia Bowman, a freshman from Rock Island. "We're playing with all people in our own age group, so there's less pressure because (on the high school teams) you could be playing against a senior who's ready to go off to college."
It also gives the players a chance to play in new systems and learn new styles of play.
"(Muscatine 2003) plays four in the back," said Sophia Thomas, a freshman at Muscatine. "And for (the high school), we play three in the back, that's a lot different."
Muscatine 2003 features seven players from the Muscatine High School varsity roster: Thomas, Kaylin Beadle, Grace Bode, Ashlyn McGinnis, Abigail Rhoades, Isabel Rodriguez and Emma Zillig.
However, the team also has players from nearby schools like Rock Island, North Scott and Burlington.
"Everyone that we're going to go up against is good," coach Randoll said. They're representing their state, we're representing our state, this is all going to be super-quality soccer."
The competition will kick off today at 11 a.m. as the team will play the representatives from North Dakota. Muscatine 2003’s second game will be against the team from Minnesota, with the finale against Northern Ohio. The semifinals and finals will follow on Sunday and Monday.
“It’s pretty exciting,” coach Randoll said “It’s the first team that’s gone this far from Muscatine ever.”