Local semipro club features former prep stars

By: Timothy Pontzer | C&G Newspapers | Published July 30, 2018

 North Oakland Soccer Co. midfielder Emily Solek, right, battles for possession with an opponent from Rebels FC during a July 13 match. A 2017 graduate of Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Solek is one of many local prep products on the NOSC roster.

North Oakland Soccer Co. midfielder Emily Solek, right, battles for possession with an opponent from Rebels FC during a July 13 match. A 2017 graduate of Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Solek is one of many local prep products on the NOSC roster.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 NOSC forward Katelyn Mather, left, fights for the ball during a July 13 contest. Mather is a 2017 graduate of Auburn Hills Avondale.

NOSC forward Katelyn Mather, left, fights for the ball during a July 13 contest. Mather is a 2017 graduate of Auburn Hills Avondale.

Photo by Donna Agusti

AUBURN HILLS — Through his love of soccer, Doug Steinard keeps a busy schedule.

The 2008 Rochester High grad currently helms the Rochester Hills Stoney Creek boys program while also serving as an assistant with the Lawrence Tech women’s team.

Steinard recently stepped down from his post as the coach of the Auburn Hills Avondale girls team. He also previously coached the Yellow Jackets boys side and recently started on the staff of the Michigan Jaguars, a local club.

Despite the long list of commitments, Steinard has added a new title in the summer. Established last year, Steinard and Ryan Elchuk (the coach of the Madison Heights Bishop Foley girls program) created the North Oakland Soccer Co.

Calling the fields of Avondale and Foley home, North Oakland SC bills itself as “metro Detroit’s minor league team,” offering local female players a chance to compete at a high level in the offseason.

“We started doing it because a lot of girls needed a place to play in the summer,” Steinard explained. “We don’t make any money off of it, but it allows these players the chance to stay in shape and get the touches they need.”

Playing out of the Michigan Premier Soccer League, the semipro outfit started as a plea from Carly Cerny. A 2015 graduate of Stoney Creek who is currently a senior defender at Cleveland State, Cerny reached out to her former coach in Steinard about putting together a team during her offseason.

“There aren’t many options once you’re in college, unless you want to play in some of the higher-up leagues,” Cerny said. “Some of those teams have like 50 girls, so you’re not guaranteed to get a lot of playing time. Here, we have a smaller group that is very tight knit and pushes each other. Doug put this together, and we’re all very thankful.”

Cerny serves as the team captain. 

“You would think that a summer team would just be a thing to goof around. But we take it pretty seriously and work really hard to get better,” she said.

Steinard coached the JV team at Stoney when Cerny was a freshman.

“I’ve known (Cerny) for a really long time. She’s a great kid,” Steinard explained. “She doesn’t have to be the ‘rah rah’ kind of leader, but she does what she needs by example. She’s a great example of what this team is perfect for.”

Steinard said he doesn’t have to look far to form a formidable squad.

“Many of these girls are local and are referred to us,” Steinard said. “Just in this area, we have a ton of teams that produce a lot of talent.”

Samantha LaRocca agreed. A 2014 graduate of Warren Regina, LaRocca is currently a senior midfielder at Albion, where she led the Britons in scoring last season.

“Over the summer, it’s really hard to get a group together to play, especially from your own (college) team where everyone lives all over,” LaRocca remarked. “This is a fun team. We all work to get our touches during the summer. I didn’t really know a lot of the girls, but we’re all pretty close now.”

That close bond is something Katelyn Mather enjoys most about NOSC. A 2017 graduate of Avondale, Mather is a sophomore forward at Lawrence Tech. 

“We have a lot of girls that are very talented, and it is fun to be part of this,” Mather said. “The coaches are easy to get along with, and all the girls are super nice. It’s not full of cliques. We genuinely want each other to get better while making the team as competitive as possible.”

For Allie Brodsky, the team allows her a chance to keep playing the sport she loves. A 2013 Bloomfield Hills Marian alum, Brodsky finished her soccer career at Kalamazoo College in 2017.

“It’s really hard to give up soccer,” Brodsky said. “Even though I’m technically done, I want to come out and play whenever I could. This gives me a chance to still play at a high level. The girls here don’t come out to just mess around. We’re out here to win, and it’s very competitive.”

NOSC has done its share of winning, taking the State Cup July 25 and the league title July 22. The squad finished the year at 9-2 overall.  

“We are extremely proud of this group of girls,” Steinard said. “It’s pretty amazing to win the State Cup and the league title in only our second year.”

Steinard has high hopes for the program, believing it could move up to the United Women’s Soccer League in the future.

“We’re trying to build this into a full-on program that really offers a lot for local girls,” Steinard said. “We’re trying to get into the (UWSL) someday, but that’s not based on promotion and regulation. You have to pay to get in, so we need to gain the attention of potential sponsors and so on.”

This year, Steinard also added a youth element to NOSC, allowing players in their freshman year of high school and up to play for the club.

“For the younger girls, they can stay in high school while also getting a chance to play for us,” Steinard said. “It’s similar to many of the baseball travel teams around here. We stole the idea from them and wanted to make sure they can keep their high school eligibility.”

With a significantly cheaper entry fee compared to academy soccer, Steinard was a bit overwhelmed with the response.

“We were hoping to have 15 girls or so. We had 47 girls try out and made two teams of 20,” Steinard explained. “We suspend play during the high school season, and what is also cool is the girls have a chance to make the top club. The MPSL says you have to be 16 or older, so if a girl can make the cut for the top team, we’ll add them to the roster.”