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.”