Kansas City women rising in the national ranks

From: Thad Bell Editor's Note: Thad Bell owns and operates Thad Bell Photography and also writes for Examiner.com, SBNation.com and his own blog, Backpost.net.

With FC Kansas City of the NWSL starting in spring, they will be building a team through national team player allocations, college draft and rounding out the roster with local players. The Kansas City area has not been known in the past for producing players that perform on the national stage but that has been changing the last few years.

Women’s teams around the area are consistently winning and placing well nationally as well. Sporting Blue Valley, the ECNL teams, local college programs are all on the rise and the women that are coming through those teams are better and being recognized nationally.

There have been a number of women called into the national team camps and playing for the youth national teams and it is only a matter of time before the full national team has a Kansas City player or two representing their country at a World Cup.

One example of Kansas City area women doing well is Notre Dame. They won the Women’s National Championship in 2010 with five Kansas City area players on the team and most of them contributed significantly to the season. Two of those women (Lauren Fowlkes and Mandy Laddish) have played in the U.S. Women’s youth teams. They both won U-20 Women’s World Cup titles as well, Fowlkes in 2008 and Laddish in 2012.

A look at Kansas City area women in the U.S. National Team pools

Morgan Marlborough – Forward (U20, U23) Santa Clara, Raymore, MO - Marlborough may be the closest to reaching the senior National Team. She started all three games for the U-23’s in Norway when they won the Three Nations Tournament and scored and added an assist in the final. She has size, speed, and a savvy beyond her age. There is probably not a better pure natural goal scorer from Kansas City. Morgan transferred from Nebraska to Santa Clara when she was on verge of setting a Husker scoring record, presumably to be closer to the U.S. Training Center.

Adrianna Franch – Goalkeeper (U20, U23) Oklahoma State Salina, KS – Probably just as close to making the full National Team, was called into the camp for the Olympics but was not on the final roster. Has been described as a “freak of an athlete” by local coaches, she is a natural athlete that has developed into a top keeper. Fearless in goal, willing to throw her body in the way and just a bit crazy coupled with speed and agility makes her a formidable keeper.

Jordan Jackson – Forward (U20, U23) Nebraska Overland Park, KS - Talented forward paired with Marlborough at Nebraska scored a ton of goals and continued on her own after Marlborough transferred. Jackson has too many awards to list. She was called into U-23 camp last summer.

Lauren Fowlkes – Anywhere (U20, U23) Notre Dame Lee’s Summit Mo - Fowlkes was on that National Championship team for Notre Dame, she was the first woman from Kansas City to garner serious attention at the national level. She opened the door for players from Kansas City. Fowlkes was a very dynamic midfielder when she was young but suffered two ACL injuries.  She came back even stronger but her game changed, becoming a smarter player. Lauren has been described as a “Swiss army knife of soccer”. She can play anywhere along the spine of a team. Went from midfield to centerback for U20 World Cup team, at Notre Dame played a National Championship game at centerback, a couple years later played her second National Championship game at forward and played holding mid in between those times. Versatile, smart and led Chicago Red Stars in scoring last year.

Mandy Laddish – Midfielder (U18, U20) Notre Dame Lee’s Summit Mo - Laddish was on that National Championship team for Notre Dame, she has played numerous games for the U-20s and was a member of the team that won the 2012 CONCACAF Under-20 Women’s Championship and earned a berth to the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan.  Talented and tenacious, Laddish has been successful helping every one of her teams reach the highest levels.

Shea Groom – Forward (U17, U20) Texas A&M, Liberty, MO – Small, quick and passionate, Groom wants the ball and is unafraid to run at the other team. She scored the game winner for Liberty High School in the State Championship final with one second left on the clock. Been called into U.S. camps and should get more opportunities.

Caroline Stanley – Goalkeeper (U17, U20) USC, Lee’s Summit, MO – Stanley played with the U.S. U-20’s, with the U-17’s in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying and had at least two saves in every shootout she has been in, obviously a very talented keeper. Played at Missouri but transferred to USC.

Kaysie Clark – Midfielder (U15, U17, U20) Missouri, Liberty, MO – Possibly the most decorated player from Kansas City, has played at every level of the National Team Youth system so far and has been a standout player at Missouri. A creative and intelligent playmaker, Clark is another player to watch.

Dorian Bailey – Midfielder (U15) St. Theresa’s - Highly regarded, very creative mid that is willing to take on 1 on 1. It doesn’t matter, left or right, she changes pace to catch defenders off balance. At national camp, she stood out to all observers as being creative.

Those are just the players that have already spent time with the U.S. Youth teams, there are dozens of players around the Kansas City area that are just a step behind or haven’t received their call yet. Morgan Hensley leads the U15’s around the country in scoring, Caroline Gray a skilled midfielder at Nebraska and many more that will be pushing the current crop to get better.

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