In HearSway, Uncategorized

Moms, college students and women of all ages are rolling up their sleeves (and shorts) to play soccer in the Athletic Club Sandhills (ACS) Adult Women’s League, which held its first season last year and is looking to grow its roster for the summer season starting June 17. ACS is a nonprofit organization that has been developing young athletes as young as two through soccer in Moore County since 1986, operating under different names through the years.

Now they’re offering one of the only opportunities for adult women to play the game and the girlies are going (Mia) Hamm.  Director of ACS Operations Kari Gulovich says the feedback has been great. “We’re offering something they (women) have been looking for.” The league has drawn nearly 50 players per season, consisting of four teams for games of 8 versus 8 once a week.

Lorin Wagler, who has been playing soccer since she was 5, including for ACS, is a member of the Lady Pines. She calls the league a “refreshing blend of enjoyment and competitiveness. …You are fully immersed in the action, fostering a strong sense of teamwork that can seem somewhat overshadowed in the male-dominated co-ed league.”

Lorin Wagler (standing, far right) and her Lady Pines teammates with a second-place trophy.

The ACS Adult Co-ed league has been around for several years and recently split into two divisions for a total of 16 teams. Co-ed requires just one woman per team on the field at a time. Playing with the guys is cool and all but let’s be honest, who really run the world? Girls.

Danielle Buenrostro is a co-captain for the Lady Pines, which won the first-ever ACS Adult Women’s League Championship in the Fall of 2023. She was head over cleats when she learned about the Women’s League. “I was spreading the word at the gym, church, and neighbors.” Having played co-ed soccer herself for several years, Danielle saw a need for an all-women’s league. “Women tend to be an extra player on co-ed (teams). This is a step in the right direction for giving women quality playing time. They can flourish and enjoy the entirety of the sport with no limits.”

Danielle Buenrostro (laying down, front right) and the Lady Pines, who won the first-ever ACS Women’s Adult League Championship in August 2023.

The mother of three is an assistant coach for her son’s ACS boys U9 team. Danielle says her kid was shook when he learned that mom still had it. “It’s important for my children to see me out there playing. You are more capable than you realize … you can continue to do something you love later in life. You’re never too old.” And ACS loves to see it. Soccer Director Julio Penanillo says they want the games “to be community, family friendly” events. 

In fact, many of the adult players grew up in the ACS or coach there. Kari, who was a soccer mom to two daughters before working for the club says they love to see alumni return in any capacity. “It’s so much more than soccer. My daughters have helped as coaches. It’s a great sense of pride.” Julio adds that ACS alumni “pass their experience on to the next generation of players. It has a big impact on me.”

Trinity Balloue plays for the Lady Pines and was in ACS programs for nearly a decade. “It taught me that no matter what background you come from, the shared love of soccer creates a unity (in teams).” Trinity has been with the Lady Pines since the beginning. “It’s been so awesome playing with people who enjoy the game just as much as I do. The overall atmosphere has allowed me to get back to what I love when I thought I wouldn’t have another opportunity to play after I graduated (high school).” 

Players in the debut ACS Adult Women’s League. Trinity Balloue (in green, far left) and Haley Kallgren (in yellow, far right) pose with their team, the Lady Pines.

Haley Kallgren is also an ACS alumna who plays club and intramural soccer at Wingate University near Charlotte. She says being a goalie on the Lady Pines has helped her come to terms with not pursuing a collegiate athletic career. “I was so upset because I thought I would not compete again, but then I was offered an opportunity to play rec soccer and I was so happy! It has allowed me to…have fun in the process without the stress of living up to the expectations of a coach.”        

The league is as much about connection as it is competition. Many of the players stick together and return season after season. “It’s a beautiful harmony,” says Danielle about her team, the Lady Pines. “The camaraderie is amazing to experience.  I’ve made some long lasting friendships and met women I wouldn’t have met otherwise.” 

Although the focus of ACS is youth sports, Julio says they’ve enjoyed seeing the success of their adult soccer program. The women’s league starts its summer season on June 17. The cost is $70 if you register before June 15 and an extra $5 after that. Ball out with your besties, aunties and any other women in your life who are goals.

All athletic levels are welcome, whether you get winded walking up a single flight of stairs or you bring a tripod to the gym. “Take the leap,” says Lorin, who was uncertain about signing up at first. “With just a one hour-long game per week and on-the-fly substitutions, it’s surprisingly manageable. It not only provides a fulfilling outlet for physical activity but also cultivates a supportive sisterhood that endures beyond the field.” Build your dream team by registering here

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