The Worcester Smiles Football Club is helping Central Massachusetts women continue to lace up their cleats and play soccer at a high level after college.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Jen Harding said. “There's not many college athletes that can say they continued on to play. As part of this organization it's a fantastic idea they have put together.”
The semi-pro team plays in the United Women’s Soccer League. For players like Katie Bottis, it’s a second chance. She says was sidelined for part of her college career with injuries.
“I mean I feel my injuries are long gone,” Bottis said. “So it feels good to be back.”
The team travels around the north east for games. Coach JP Galicia say the league has a lot of talent. Close to 100 women who've played in the UWS have signed professional contracts.
“The opportunity is still there to play at the highest level because this is like the feeder league for professionals," Galicia said.
Liz Anderson says it’s not only a chance to play, it’s a chance to be a role model.
“We can show kids, look what you can do look what you can do,” Anderson said. “You know, you don't even have to still be in college. You can be out of college and still play. If you love the game, if that's your passion, you can still play it.”
Meanwhile some Smiles are still in college and say this helps them prepare for their upcoming seasons. The Smiles weren’t able to have a season last year because of COVID-19.
“I thought it was a great experience to come and play during the summer and, keep my touches and stuff like that," Alexandra Baltas said.
The Smiles are closing their year on July 10 with a home game at Foley Stadium.