West Side Story

  • Boys golf will have a meet at Bunker Hill Golf Course on Sept. 17

  • Varsity volleyball plays away at Waterloo West High School on Sept.18

  • Girls Varsity swimming and diving meet at Coralville: Recreation Center Indoor Pool on Sept. 18

  • Boys golf will have a meet at Beaver Hills Country Club on Sept. 18

  • Boys cross country will have a meet at Seminole Valley Cross Country Course on Sept. 20

The club advantage

Over the years, West’s girls and boys soccer teams have brought home a combined total of 11 state titles. One possible reason for the teams’ success is the abundance of club soccer teams in the Iowa City area. But does this give an advantage to these players?

Marnie Vonderhaar '19 prepares to strike the ball in a game that took place last season.

Marnie Vonderhaar '19 prepares to strike the ball in a game that took place last season.

A player rolls up for the first day of soccer tryouts. They haven’t played soccer in months, much less worked out. Despite hopes of improving their fitness and fulfilling their potential of playing on the varsity team, they find that their lack of prior preparation has hindered their opportunity to start the season off on the right foot.

“Spring break is more to get kids ready for tryouts who haven’t been playing at all because you can be out of shape or haven’t touched the ball for a while,” Harry Zielinski ’18, and Iowa Soccer Club (ISC) and West High varsity soccer player explained. “That’s one of the good things about club: the facilities we’re able to play in in the winter. If you don’t play club you can’t consistently practice over the winter.”

A majority of the West High varsity players are members of club teams. Although having additional practice time in the off-season may be an advantage, girls soccer coach Dave Rosenthal only takes into consideration the athlete that he sees during tryouts, which take place the first couple days of the season.

“With the exception of your captains for varsity, those are returning players who we know are going to make varsity, everybody’s [spots] are up for grabs. You can’t make the assumption that you’re on varsity until you’ve made that happen. You have to earn it,” Rosenthal said.

With the exception of your captains for varsity, those are returning players who we know are going to make varsity, everybody’s [spots] are up for grabs. You can’t make the assumption that you’re on varsity until you’ve made that happen. You have to earn it,”

— Dave Rosenthal, girls soccer and Iowa Soccer Club coach

The rigorous tryout process can be made more comfortable for some athletes via year-round exposure to soccer through club. Zielinski explains the almost never-ending rotation between high school and club soccer seasons.

“After we won state [in 2017], there was about two weeks time before we started tryouts for club, which isn’t a lot of time. So the summer to [fall] season for club is really intense and it’s really important,” Zielinski said. “The winter season for club is not that important so right now [we’re] getting ready for [the] high school season.”

With this player expertise, it’s no surprise the West High soccer teams are some of the best in the state. Many of the area club players are then split up between the area high schools, making varsity teams competitive; however, this is not always the case in other parts of Iowa.

“One of the things that makes West High such a good soccer team is [that] we have two serious high schools here in 3A, but, Cedar Rapids has [approximately] four, so their club kids get split up among four high schools. It’s harder for them to put a roster of 20 people together that are really solid,” Zielinski said.

Zielinski believes that this makes it harder for students here or at City High to earn a spot on the varsity team, whereas it may be easier in Cedar Rapids.

Dave Rosenthal, head girls soccer coach at West for 23 seasons, has coached for the past three years with ISC and 17 years before that with Alliance Soccer Club.

“I know most of the players through [ISC] but I will take the best players, the best athletes. Just because you play club soccer doesn’t mean you make the varsity team. On the other hand, just because you don’t play club soccer doesn’t mean you can’t make the varsity team,” Rosenthal said.

Since he coaches with a club during the offseason, Rosenthal must follow various rules when considering which team to coach. For example, he is not allowed to coach any students in grades 9-12 who may play for West; however, he may officiate any other matches without breaking the rules of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.

Although his high school athletes do not play for him outside of the season, he does see the advantage of playing club soccer.

“[It’s an advantage] for a lot of reasons. Number one, you’ve made soccer a focal point and you’re spending more time on that,” Rosenthal said. “Plus, they get very good club coaching. There are a lot of people who can coach the game, you’re talking about some of the best coaches in the state that work in some of the best clubs in the state.”

Holly Paulsen ’18 believes that another advantage of playing club soccer prior to high school is also helpful to calm some anxieties that freshman would have when joining a new team. 

[Club] made it a lot easier going in as freshmen, it made it a lot less intimidating.”

— Holly Paulsen '18

“Since we already knew each other, we already had good chemistry on the field,” Paulsen said. “It made it a lot easier going in as freshmen, it made it a lot less intimidating.”

Zielinski agrees, but he also added that receiving coaching or having connection with a high school coach before starting high school may also boost a player’s chances of making the varsity team.

“I do think [the coach] having seen you when you [were] younger helps maybe get on the team because he knows to look out for you,” Zielinski said. “But I think once tryouts come it doesn’t matter what club you were a part of; if you’re playing better than a club kid, he’ll take you over a club kid.”

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About the Writers
Ellie Gretter, Sports Editor
Ellie Gretter is a senior at West High. It is her third year on staff and she is Online and Print Sports Editor. When Ellie isn’t covering a sporting event, she enjoys online shopping, going on runs, and spending time with her friends.
Deniz Ince, Print Editor-in-Chief, Co-Sports Editor
Deniz Ince is a senior in her third year on the West Side Story staff as the Print Editor-in-Chief and Co-Sports Editor. In her free time, Deniz likes going on runs, spending time with her dog and rewatching Friends on Netflix.
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