Two Erskine College juniors, Samantha Abbott of North Augusta and Erin Gray of West Columbia, recently tried out and were selected for the Central SC Cobras, a women’s soccer team in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League, the longest standing national women’s soccer league in North America.
Abbott and Gray, both members of the Erskine College women’s soccer team coached by Gary Winchester, tried out for the Cobras in December.
“I didn’t want to go by myself so I asked Erin to go with me,” Abbott said.
Winchester was delighted that two of his players tried out, and glad that they talked with him beforehand.
“Sam and Erin were amazingly respectful and came to me with their desire to play,” he said.
“I have always encouraged the players to play when they can and it was and is an incredible opportunity for them, not only to learn but to begin networking and creating ‘soccer’ contacts,” he added.
Just before Christmas, Abbott and Gray were notified that they had been chosen.
The USL W-League is a national women’s soccer league in the United States and Canada on the second level of women’s soccer in the United States soccer pyramid, alongside the Women’s Premiere Soccer League and below Women’s Professional Soccer. It is an open league, giving college players the opportunity to play alongside established international players while maintaining their collegiate eligibility.
“Playing at that level exposes players to something special and unique,” Winchester said.
Abbott said she hopes to “get to the point of being on the travel team or the starting eleven” with the Cobras. For now, she is happy to be part of the player pool with a chance to practice with the team once the school term ends.
“I fully encourage the players to play, and to be fair, this is the first time this has come up,” the coach said, noting that the Cobras are a new franchise. “After all, they could twist an ankle walking down the stairs—they may as well be playing soccer and working on their game.”
Gray, who is active in ROTC, was happy to be selected for the Cobras but has decided her other commitments will not allow her to participate.
Winchester is glad that Abbott is able to pursue this opportunity with the USL W-League.
“My philosophy as a coach is that the game will teach them what they need to know,” he said. “So the more they play, the better for me, for Erskine, for their teammates, and for their own development.”