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Jul 2001 / games :: email this story to a friend

Kickin' It, W-League Style
By Meghann Burke

The W-League is America's first national soccer league for women. It is one of the five leagues associated with the USL, the largest system of soccer leagues in North America. USL leagues serve as a direct pipeline and development ground for the nation's Division I men's and women's leagues, the MLS and the WUSA. The 37-team W-League includes both current and former college players. The league has two divisions — the 19-team W-1 or "elite" league, and an 18-team W-2 League. The Mercury is a W-2 team.

Here's the first installment from Meghann...

May 15, 2001

Meghann Burke

I have officially been a Memphian now for 5 days. I still can't believe how fast my second year of college has flown by, and now I have relocated yet again to pursue my soccer career. Such is the life of a vagabond! The past week has been a whirlwind of events; it is almost impossible to know where to begin.

Since getting here, I have come to learn one major lesson: people are the same no matter where you go. Memphis hates Nashville, and Nashville knows nothing about it. Sound familiar Kansas City? To be honest, I'm impartial. It's easy being from St. Louis, because we're the best at everything anyway. Seriously though, my roommate is from Nashville and goes to Vanderbilt, so we had a chuckle over the recent Nashville-bashings in The Memphis Flyer, which is essentially the same thing as the Riverfront Times. Like I said, people are the same no matter where you go.

Nearly our entire team lives in the same apartment complex, complete with tennis courts, swimming pool, and fitness center. Directly behind us is Shelby Farms, an untouched natural preserve inhabited by wildlife. We live in Cordova, a community just outside of the Memphis city limits, so we have the advantage of the relatively close city life along with the quiet confines of the suburbs. One of my primary missions upon arrival was to find a Starbucks, and sure enough there is one within 3 miles of us. I haven't had a chance to really explore the area yet despite getting lost every time I get in my car, but I hear there's the "Super Bowl of Swine: World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest" this weekend.

We have nineteen different universities represented on the Memphis Mercury, ranging in age from 18 to 31. In fact, there are quite a few from Ireland and Canada. I've picked up a few fun expressions from the Irish, now that I can understand them. For example, instead of saying "three," they say, "tree." So the team has this running joke about there being "tree tousand tree hundred and tirty tree trees" behind our complex. Our captain, Claire, is the oldest and Irish. She's a character. It's weird to be playing with people whose age you aren't supposed to mention, but she's got the exuberance of a 12-year-old.

Meghann Burke

Probably the most interesting thing to adjust to is being friends with your collegiate rivals. I played with Alison Wagner in high school on the Regional Team, but we took turns fouling each other when we played the University of Wisconsin this past October. We lost that one 1-0. The first remark I heard upon stepping on the field at my first practice was Wags saying, "Hey, I'm surprise you're still not salty with me." I told her I was over it.

Ali Baker from the University of Memphis is on our team as well. I think we probably eyed each other down just a little bit before deciding to get Frappuccinos at Starbucks some time this week. Our goalkeeper coach had a BBQ at his house on Sunday, and we decided to entitle it "Eating with the Enemy." One of the owner's daughters is a goalkeeper that will be playing for Southern Miss. next year as well.

One thing that I have been undeniably lucky with is that no matter where I've played, I am surrounded by good people. Whether playing at SLU, Colorado, or Memphis, people have made every effort to make me feel right at home. The hospitality is just incredible.

Plus, Memphis is a great soccer community. We had over 2,000 people at our first game. (That includes some SLU faithfuls from the Wolfpack Girls Soccer Club in St. Louis. Thanks for coming, girls!) The owners, the coaching staff, the media — everyone has gotten involved to make our team the best in the W-League. And once again, my teammates are amazing. Everyone works incredibly hard, but none of them have lost their sense of humor. We've got a legitimate shot at the W-League National Title, and I can already tell that we're going to have some fun along the way.

I'm not certain if we have any skydivers in the bunch, but there are definitely a few pranksters. Put a few of us in a room and it could be a scary situation. Last night, three of us went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. Dawn Crow, a defender, and I challenged Missy Gregg, a forward, to eat 2 sushi rolls. She shied away after the first, but after teasing her about being a typical whiny forward, she ate the second one like a champ. I'm sure my mom would be relieved to hear that I'm relying on sushi for my source of entertainment rather than white water rapids and falling out of airplanes like last summer in Colorado.

It's time for me to head to lifting, running, then training...thanks for reading, and I'm looking forward to keeping you guys posted throughout the summer. Be thinking of the Memphis Mercury when we take on Houston this Sunday!

Meghann Burke will be a junior at Saint Louis University this fall; keep up with the rest of her summer adventures on the Billiken Athletics site.

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