Area high school girls soccer coaches see the addition of women’s soccer at East Central College to be a positive for the community.

Martin Clayes has been named the overall head coach for both the men’s and women’s teams and he’s signed his first player, St. Clair senior Zoe Gaszak.

Overall, there has been a very positive reaction to the school’s announcement it’s adding the sport starting in the fall of 2020.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the addition of women’s soccer at East Central,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “What an exciting time for our community. As an alumnus of East Central College, I can honestly say that I had a great educational experience and soccer was the reason I ended up there. I feel it’ll be the same way for the young women who decide to continue their education there. They will gain great experience through the soccer program.”

Sullivan Head Coach Bill Kackley helped his father coach women’s basketball at East Central.

“I think it is great that they are starting both programs (women’s soccer and baseball),” Kackley said. “I believe it will open more opportunities for my players and players around the area. I don’t know how many will take advantage of this opportunity to go play at ECC, but I am going to try and guide them to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Washington Head Coach Adam Fischer feels the program will be received well in the community.

“I think any time that the community can offer the kids in our area a chance to continue playing a sport they love while earning a degree it is a plus,” Fischer said. “We have loads of talent in this area with girls soccer and allowing the kids to stay close to home and play can be exciting for the communities involved.”

St. Clair Head Coach Tim Isgrig led his Lady Bulldogs to the Class 2 quarterfinals last season.

“I think the addition of women’s soccer is exciting for the area,” Isgrig said. “We have a lot of quality players in our area who are capable of playing at the next level and this gives the opportunity to do that close to home.”

Fennessey was in goal when the school finished third in the 2003 NJCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championships. As a former player and longtime coach, Fennessey sees East Central as the perfect spot for many of his players to continue their careers.

“The real experience will be the education they receive, though,” Fennessey said. “We have a very strong area in regards to women soccer. I think our geographical location will be able to add players to the program each year. I think the future coach of the Lady Falcons will look to add several Franklin County athletes to his team. I’m sure that number will fluctuate from year to year.”  

Union has been one of the area’s top programs in recent history, one any future ECC coach would want to recruit. The Lady ’Cats have dominated the Four Rivers Conference and finished fourth in the last two MSHSAA Class 3 State Championships.

Isgrig said his team is ready to contribute to the new program.

“We have one who is interested in playing there next year, and if soccer was available there the last couple years, we would’ve had two or three a year go there to play,” Isgrig said. “I like that it allows the girls an opportunity to continue playing a sport that they love but not going way in debt in order to continue their athletic career. With the A-Plus program in most of our area schools it will give these girls a great opportunity to play and continue their academic careers.”

Fischer said the Lady Jays should be another contributor to the East Central program.

“I would hope three or four would take advantage of a free education, or close to free, to continue playing the sport they love while starting their college education,” Fischer said.  

Kackley is for on-campus housing as well. 

“The only (other) thing that I would like them to do is build some dorms to house student athletes,” Kackley said. “I believe that would be very beneficial to the college.”

Coaches are happy to see the school adding a sport which currently is popular in the area.

“I would just like to thank ECC for making this decision,” Fischer said. “I know they have had their ongoing discussions on this for years, and I truly hope our area student athletes help keep this program successful at ECC.”

Fennessey is looking forward to seeing the new program in action.

“I’m really excited for the college,” Fennessey said. “They have done a lot in the recent years to bolster their educational programs. This move shows a continued effort to improve their athletic department as well. Very proud to say I was a Falcon. I look forward to watching the girls this fall.”