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Club soccer siphons off its share of talent

First off, congrats to Karly Stuenkel of St. Charles for her college soccer commitment to Iowa.

Heckuva achievement and all, but it got Sly to thinking: as excellent of a team as St. Charles North is, how dominant could the North Stars be with another player of that caliber in the mix (Stuenkel plays year-round club soccer for the Eclipse).

Shoot, maybe North will win the state title this season anyway and it won't even be worth pondering, but it's still a shame from a high school sports fan's perspective to see great talents not play for their school teams.

North isn't the only area team dealing with the club bugaboo.

Another quality Tri-Cities team, Geneva, would surely be that much better if Hannah Davison (another Big Ten soccer recruit, Northwestern) were on the pitch. But Davison also focuses her soccer talents on the club ranks, though she does chip in to the Vikings' spring sports efforts on the track, where she excels as a jumper.

There are probably some other really talented local soccer players in the same boat as Stuenkel and Davison, as there have been in years' past.

Sly's not here to rag on these kids' decisions. It's hard to argue with the results, and there surely are competitive benefits from playing the high-level club competition and getting specialized coaching attention throughout the year.

It's the tired, old debate about whether the social and team-building benefits of playing for your school for a few months outweigh the club benefits, and people just look at it differently. That's OK.

But what's not up for debate is that a really good area for high school soccer, the Tri-Cities, would be even more of a force to be reckoned with if its full complement of available talent suited up.

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