SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - The W-League, a women's soccer pro-am league that operates as a part of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) wrapped up its 2012 season on Sunday, with the Ottawa Fury claiming their first championship by virtue of a thrilling come-from-behind win over the Pali Blues in penalty kicks.
The league, in its 18th year, ran from May through July and featured several members of the 2012 Seton Hall squad who participated in the league as a way to prepare for their upcoming campaign.
The Pirate presence was highlighted by the efforts of rising junior midfielder Ashley Clarke (Paramus, N.J.) who thanks to her stellar play in the middle of the pitch as a part of the North Jersey Valkyries, was one of three midfielders to earn All-Eastern Conference honors.
Clarke has played in every game for SHU through her first two seasons, starting all but one. Last season, she finished tied for third on the team with two assists and tied for fourth in goals (2) and points (6).
During the summer, Clarke emerged as an attacking force for the Valkyries, leading the team in all major offensive categories. Her prolific scoring record included seven goals and four assists for a total of 18 points in 11 games. The Paramus native scored or assisted on the game-winning tally five different times, helping the Valkyries to a 7-3-2 record and a second-place finish in the Northeast Division.
She completed the season ranked amid the overall league leaders in goals and points, finishing eighth among all players in both categories.
Other current Pirates competing in the league included rising seniors Cristina Barthel (Freehold, N.J.) and Taylor Mims (Miller Place, N.Y.), along with Clarke's classmate Meghan Hayes (Fredon, N.J.).
Both Barthel and Mims played for the New Jersey Wildcats where they teamed up on defense and helped guide the squad to a 6-2-4 mark, finishing one point behind Clarke and the Valkyries in the Northeast Division.
Barthel appeared in four contests and tallied one assist, providing the helper on a 90th minute equalizer to earn a draw in an early season matchup with the Valkyries. Mims was a key figure for the Wildcats throughout the season, tying for the team-lead with 11 appearances.
Hayes was part of a New Jersey Rangers FC squad that also competed in the Northeast Division. The Fredon native appeared in five games and provided maybe the most important service of the season for the Rangers, tallying an assist on the game-winning goal in a 2-0 triumph over the New York Magic.
Second-year women's soccer assistant coach Christina Reuter also competed, returning to her familiar position in net and serving as the first-choice goalkeeper for the Central SC Cobras, based in Columbia, S.C.
Reuter, a former collegiate standout whose name is littered throughout the Boston University record book, appeared in goal nine times for the Cobras. She posted 40 saves and was credited with two of the Cobras' three wins on the year, including a 4-0 shutout victory over divisional foe FC Jax Destroyers.
The W-League is not the only soccer organization which has boasted a Seton Hall flavor this summer, as rising junior Amie Ruhe (Monrovia, Md.) has been playing for the Maryland Capitols of the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL).
Billed as the "largest national women's soccer league in the world," the WPSL features over 60 teams in 11 divisions competing all across the country. With the league entering the final week of its three-month season, the Capitols are currently in the driver's seat of the Northeast Atlantic - South Division with a 7-1-2 record through 10 games.
Ruhe has played in six games for the Capitols, tied for the fourth-highest total on the team, and has recorded one assist to this point in the season.
She is joined on the squad by her sister, Julie who plays for Radford University in Virginia.
The Pirates will reunite later this week with the 2012 season fast approaching. The team's first test comes in less than two weeks, when SHU hosts Fordham in an exhibition match on Saturday, Aug. 11. Seton Hall's first regular-season match of the year will be the following Friday, Aug. 17, when they welcome Long Island University to South Orange.
Start-time for both matches is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
In the mean-time, don't forget to support women's soccer alum Kelly Smith as she leads host nation Great Britain in their push for gold at the 2012 Olympics. Team Great Britain holds a 2-0 record and has already secured a spot in the quarterfinals of the women's football competition. Smith and her teammates will next take the field tomorrow, July 31 when they battle world-power Brazil for supremacy in Group E.