Lake Norman & Mooresville

Eclipse program puts elite girls' soccer on the map

Chad Metzler had a vision of what the Lake Norman Soccer Club's girls' program could be when he joined the organization as a coach four years ago.

That dream quickly turned into reality, as the LNSC's Eclipse soccer program, which Metzler helped form, has grown into one of the elite developmental programs in North Carolina.

"We definitely took a leap of faith when we created the Eclipse program," said Metzler. "The success we have already had has exceeded our expectations in one sense and fulfilled what we were trying to accomplish at the same time."

The Eclipse was established in fall 2008 to provide an top-notch program for girls' soccer that could compete nationally as well as internationally.

Unlike other local clubs, the Eclipse wanted to provide the opportunities on a much smaller scale - with one team per age group, emphasizing quality over quantity.

"The Eclipse soccer program is very unique, like nothing I've ever done," said LNSC executive director Phillip Poole, who took over in January after serving as one of the leaders of the Charlotte Soccer Club.

"The commitment from the coaches, players and their parents has been key," said Poole. "Their desire to play anyone, anytime, anywhere, has been the driving force behind the immediate growth and success of the program."

The Eclipse started with three teams, organized by birth year: 1992, 1993 and 1994. The '95 team was added a year later, and this fall the program will expand to six with the '96, '97 and '98 teams.

The 1992 team, one of four coached by Metzler, was integral in laying the foundation.

That team won 12 tournament titles in three seasons and is sending nine players on to college soccer, including Davidson Day's Brianna Wills (Appalachian State), Hopewell's Audrey Boyle (Appalachian State), North Mecklenburg's Elena Shalon (Wofford), Mooresville's Ashley Cress (Catawba) and Lake Norman's Megan Curan (Gardner-Webb) and Elizabeth Graham (Brevard).

The '94 team, also coached by Metzler, has won 11 tournaments in its three-year history, including the third-largest youth soccer event in the world - the Dana Cup in Denmark - in 2009.

The squad, ranked 70th in the nation, also won the Lion's Cup in Germany that year with a roster featuring Hough High twins Lindsey and Morgan Byrne, Lake Norman Charter's Carolina Sanchez and Davidson Day's Maddy Clark, Max Foster, Ciara Murphy, Caitlyn Rodrigues and Maria Woodrow.

Metzler, who is also Davidson Day's girls' soccer coach, said the program has girls from 22 high schools that extend from Boone to High Point.

While the '92 and '94 teams have been impressive, the '93 team now takes the mantle as the oldest and most experienced Eclipse team. It has been ranked as high as 24th in the nation and already has seven players committed to colleges, including Hough's Allison Stearns (UNC Wilmington), Lake Norman's Kelsey Palmer (UNC Asheville) and Southlake Christian's Bethany Spano (UNC Asheville).

Palmer was invited to try out for the under-19 U.S. national team in Philadelphia earlier this month.

The Eclipse and Lake Norman Soccer Club will move into a new facility on Mazeppa Road in Mooresville on Labor Day weekend. The state-of-the-art complex features six full-sized, lighted fields.

"I think all of the parts of the puzzle are in place in Mooresville, from the players to the families to the coaches and the facilities," said Poole. "Now we just have to continue to take all those pieces and put them in the right places.

"Our future has never looked brighter."