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INTERNATIONALS GIRLS SOCCER CLUB A HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE

INTERNATIONALS GIRLS SOCCER CLUB A HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE

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25

Oct, 2018

Internationals SC Alum Shea O’Brien Shines at UA

Midfielder Shea O’Brien is a proven winner in every sense of the word.  She is a five-time State Cup champion with Internationals SC.  She was named to the Puma Women’s Elite Soccer Showcase Top 100 in 2011.  She competed at the highest level of the youth game, playing in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) for two seasons with Internationals SC.

Over the years the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio native proved to be much more than just a standout soccer player.  Her superb athleticism made her a four-year letterwinner in cross country at St. Vincent-St. Mary HS, where she was a member of the three-time state championship team.

That success has continued as a collegiate soccer player at the University of Akron. O’Brien made 70 appearances (68 starts) for the Zips, tallying four goals and four assists in four seasons.

Akron women’s soccer head coach Noreen Herlihy has been incredibly impressed with O’Brien’s work on and off the field.

“Shea has been a consistent performer for us every year.  She leads by example, first and foremost with her studies.  She also leads by example with her fitness levels and training habits which has afforded her the opportunity to start her entire career so far.  It is my hope that young players in the program have watched how she prepares herself physically for the demands of a collegiate season.   The most important thing for a coach is knowing who you can truly depend on throughout the season, and you always know what Shea will give you as she shows it every day in training.   Shea epitomizes what it means to be a student-athlete at the DI level, with her application to her studies and soccer.”

As you can see, O’Brien has really excelled in the Mid-American Conference (MAC).  The high level of play has pushed her to be her very best. 

“The MAC is always very competitive,” O’Brien commented. “Any team can be beaten on any day, no matter the ranking of each team. This year, we are trying to accomplish the goal of making it the MAC Tournament. So far, we have been competing with every team that we have faced in the MAC. In MAC play, we have taken four games into overtime or double overtime. We need to work on finishing our chances and capitalizing on our opportunities. If we can make it to the tournament, then we will do our best to win the MAC. We will take it one step at a time and one game at a time. Since the season is dwindling down, we are going into each game with the mindset that we can win.”

The team has definitely won, even posting a higher record on the road than at home.  Yet O’Brien still has some important goals to work on this season.

“One goal that I have as an individual for the season is to be the best leader and role model for my teammates. I want to be someone that my teammates look up to for advice and guidance. I also try and do all the right things in practice that will hopefully transfer into the game.”

Those things have definitely transferred into the game as O’Brien has evolved into one of the conference’s top players.  Despite her enormous success at the Division I level, she remains extremely humble. 

“When describing myself as a player I would describe myself as simple. I try to get the ball off my feet quickly and cleanly and move in and out of space to either get it again or open up space for my teammates. I try my best to get my teammates into the attack. Some of my strengths would include my endurance, foot skills, field vision, passing and calmness on the ball. I would also describe myself as hardworking. My role as a defensive midfielder is to distribute the ball to my teammates, get back on defense and disrupt the opposing team in their attack. I give 110 percent every day in training. I have had the privilege and opportunity to be the captain of our team and with that comes many responsibilities. I think my main role on the team is to keep everyone focused on our goals and remind them that we can win these games that will get us to the MAC Tournament.”

All of this success started with Internationals SC back in Medina, Ohio.

“Zdravko (Popovic) and Keri (Sarver) had such a huge impact on my career. Zdravko and Keri are both tough coaches which made me a tough player physically and mentally. They helped and guided me with so much and I am so appreciative of them both. They taught me what a strong work ethic looked like but that it also had to come from within. Zdravko always told us to ‘practice perfect,’ meaning that we must complete every task and drill with proper technique and with 100 percent effort. I do that to this day to the best of my ability. They taught me to continually strive to improve myself on and off of the field and to support those around me in doing the same. Academic success was a priority. They required us to maintain good grades. We had individual meetings each grading period with Zdravko to discuss our progress in the classroom. He truly wanted each of us to reach our full potential. We learned to complete homework on bus trips or while waiting for practice or even after very late nights after practice. We learned how to balance academics, practice, games, family and friends. We learned to be disciplined with making healthy and smart choices in our life. With all of this, they were preparing us to be college athletes while setting very high standards for us. We then, in turn, learned how to set those standards for ourselves. Looking at the big picture, though, they were preparing us for life.”

There was no question that Internationals SC was the right choice for O’Brien as she was constantly preparing for the next level during her eight years with the club.

“By playing under such great club coaches, I have continued to maintain this competitive mindset and strong work ethic both on and off the field. Internationals developed me as a player by teaching me the concept of team unity. They made me the person and player that I am today. They taught me not only how to be the best soccer player that I can possibly be but how to be a good person off the field as well. I started playing under them at age 11 and they engraved it into my mind that I must get good grades if I want to play at a high level. They taught me to be responsible and that showing up early is on time and showing up on time is late.”

Popovic remembers O'Brien's time at Internationals SC with great fondness.  

"Shea O’Brien is the type of person who thrives within our club structure. To hear her speak now, as a senior in college, about her time with the club brings tears to my eyes. It is clear that she truly took it all in and applied all of the life-lessons that we strive to teach. She put it all into practice on and off the field and applied it to her life experience as a DI student-athlete. We could always count on Shea on the field to bring 100% effort, focus and execution to everything we did – whether it be training, games, fitness, classroom sessions, team-building … she was always all in. She was also accountable off the field with her academics, lifestyle, maturity, behavior on road trips, lending a helping hand to her teammates, I could go on and on… she is the best among the best. Shea is an amazing role-model for anyone who has even worn the Internationals logo and we cannot wait to see what she does next. She always has a place to call home at the Internationals."

The values learned at Internationals SC have clearly helped players at the next level.  The club has been seen as quite a pipeline to the University of Akron over the years with O’Brien being just one of the success stories.  Internationals SC alums Madison Kaser, Rachel Baughman, Katie George, Holly Ohradzansky, Megan Waskowski, and Brianna Kanz all had recent success with UA. 

“It has been nice playing with other players from Internationals now at Akron because they understand the mindset, determination, and drive we should always have with us each day at training and in each game," O'Brien said. "We all have a shared vision and we understand the expectations and responsibility required for us. All the players that I have played with at Akron that have also came from Internationals are super competitive. We all want to win. Coming from a club like Internationals, we are used to constructive criticism. We won’t break down if our coach yells at us for playing a bad ball or having a bad game. Those mistakes are going to happen but we know how to learn from those mistakes and make them better.”

Being able to play in the ECNL for two years was also extremely helpful.  It made the transition to college that much easier. 

“I loved playing in the ECNL,” O’Brien concluded. “It was fun to travel with my team and compete against very good teams. The ECNL definitely prepared me for college because the level was always so high. Every team was a good team in the ECNL and each game challenged us to our potential.”

O’Brien has realized that potential at the University of Akron, becoming a captain and one of the program’s best players.  It should come as no surprise to those that know her.  She just wins at everything she does. 

Photo Credit: Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com

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