It’s season No. 5 for Fire & Ice, the local member of the semi-professional Women’s Premier Soccer League.
Fire & Ice, whose coach and owner is Alton High graduate Lindsay Eversmeyer, opens its season with two road games: June 3 against the Cincinnati Sirens and June 4 against the Columbus (Ohio) Eagles.
The team’s first home game will be at 7 p.m. June 10 against FC Pride. Other home games are at 1 p.m. June 25 against the Dayton Dutch Lions, 7:30 p.m. June 30 against the Dayton Dutch Lions, and 7 p.m. July 15 against Cincinnati. The playoffs begin July 22.
Fire & Ice’s home games are played at Belleville West High School. The team is in its second year at West after three seasons playing in Columbia.
The team was 4-2-2 last season and 8-1-1 in 2015. Fire & Ice won the Midwest Region championship in 2013.
“What I’m most proud of is that we made it to our fifth year,” said Eversmeyer, 37. “You just never know. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. There are no other (playing) options for young women.”
Four players return for their fifth seasons: midfielder Kelsey Dinges (Althoff, Miami-Ohio), defender Cassie Kaiping (Waterloo, McKendree), defender Gayla Foster (Edwardsville, Louisiana-Lafayette) and forward Rachel Tejada (Triad, Illinois State).
Dinges and Tejada were the News-Democrat’s Co-Players of the Year in 2011. Tejada was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year all four seasons at Illinois State.
“Together, the two of them are dynamite,” Eversmeyer said.
Other metro-east players are the team are: Lauren Kaempfe (Columbia, Southeast Missouri State); Katya Hessel (Edwardsville, Missouri, Lewis & Clark); and Kirsten Crabtree (O’Fallon, Missouri-St. Louis). Hessel, 28, is the oldest player on the team.
“We’ve always been successful,” Eversmeyer said. “Every year, we’re going to be strong. There’s eight games, and we need to win them all. All (the players) are competitive and don’t like losing. This is a great opportunity for these kids. They value (the league) being here.”
With a star-studded team, Eversmeyer acknowledged the challenge of finding sufficient playing time for the 23-player roster.
“But they understand,” Eversmeyer said. “I’m not in fear of putting anybody on the field. There’s not much dropoff (in talent).”
For the first time, Fire & Ice has a team of 20 reserves. Players can be promoted when necessary to replace an injured player or fill a positional need. The reserve team’s coach is Wendy Dillinger, who also is the women’s soccer coach at Missouri-St. Louis. The team will play in the Vetta Premier League at Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo.
Fire & Ice will sponsor the Illinois High School Boys and Girls Midwest All-Star Games on June 10 before the Fire & Ice game against FC Pride.
The boys game begins at 4 p.m., followed by the girls game at 5. Adult tickets to all three games are $8, with kids 8 and under admitted free. Students with a school ID will be admitted for $5.