During her four years at Lake Catholic, Ella Hadley proved to be among the area’s top soccer players.

Her success led to an opportunity to continue her education and playing career at the University of Akron. Hadley prepared for that challenge by playing for the Croatia Juniors in their inaugural season in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

“It was a lot of fun,” Hadley said. “It’s just good to get some game experience and know if I’m in game shape. I can do all the workouts they assign me to do, but there’s nothing like in-game training.”

Hadley, a two-time All-Ohioan, scored 14 goals with eight assists as a senior at Lake Catholic.

Playing in the WPSL, Hadley competed against players who already have several years of high-level college experience under their belts.

“It’s definitely a different level of competition,” she said. “With club, I’m used to it but it’s good to see what it’s like at the next level. It’s just getting me prepared.”

As an expansion team, the Croatia Juniors had very little time to develop the chemistry needed to compete.

They took their lumps early but came together as a team and won two straight games to close out the season with a 2-5 record.

“That was kind of crazy,” Hadley said. “For a couple of games, we didn’t even know each other’s names. It was a good experience. I think we grew as a team for sure. It was a nice way to end the season.”

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.