It was a glorious evening June 24, with low humidity and a light breeze offering a brief respite from the almost constant humidity of Delaware summers. This night had just a little more to it at DE Turf, as CAFC Osprey (Women’s Premier Soccer League) hosted this season’s final home match against Colonial Conference counterparts, Washington Dutch Lions FC.
Speaking with Osprey coach Joe Brown before the contest, he was very excited to be wrapping up the season after last year was wiped out by COVID. “It’s just great, that’s all I can say. After not getting to play last season, to be able to have a full year this season is fantastic,” he said. “People don’t really know how hard these players work. They put everything they have to it, most of these girls are college players and this is one thing they do to keep in shape in the off-season.”
The crowd began to file in prior to the 7 p.m. start and the buzz was electric as the stands were filling to almost capacity. Coach Brown pointed to the stands and stated. “This is what we love to see, people out enjoying the sport we love. It’s a beautiful night against a tough opponent and I can’t wait for the game to start.”
Except for the goalkeeper, every player on the squad is a Delaware native. These aren’t just any players either, they are elite players, including former and current Gatorade Players of the Year, Jessie Prilliman, a Caesar Rodney graduate; Ashley Bretlinger, a Padua graduate who now plays college soccer at Florida Gulf Coast. Catlin St. Leger, who earned this year’s Gatorade Player of the Year, will be playing at the University of Delaware, and Sheyenne Allen who plays for Brown University. “We have quality players up and down the squad that were first team All-State, who come back to Delaware and play soccer for the only team in the WPSL based in Delaware,” Brown said. “Everyone knows that Delaware is a small state, but I will gladly match our top players against anyone else at this level of play.”
The first half was tightly contested, with neither team able to find the back of the net. Washington did a good job limiting the Osprey rhythm in the middle of the field, and even when the Osprey looked to have an opening, the Washington defense was quick to shut down the opportunity. “We knew going in that we were going to be battling against a very tough opponent and you have to tip your cap to Washington, they came ready to play,” Brown said.
Washington would get on the board early in the second half to take the lead. The Osprey were able to respond and even the game in the final 20 minutes as the teams would end the contest all square at 1-1.
While this is just the second season for the Osprey, who won the Colonial Conference title in their inaugural season back in 2019, the Delaware-based squad has a chance to repeat after posting a record of five wins, one loss and two ties. “We will have to see how the other teams will finish out, but the worst we can do is finish second,” Brown said.
I also took some time to speak with Austin Buongiorno, Delaware Turf’s operations and events manager. He is very excited to have events filling up and fans back in attendance as well. “I just started in March, but without a doubt we went through a tough year. But we are still on our feet and have some big events coming up this summer,” he said. On July 6-8, some of the country’s top lacrosse players will be here for the Adrenaline Platinum Lacrosse Cup, featuring over 100 teams. In addition, the USA Men’s and Women’s National Lacrosse teams will be participating in exhibition matches on July 13 as part of The Top of the Bay tournament.
Besides major tournaments, there are soccer leagues, 7-on-7 football and lacrosse for all level of athlete. “We are thrilled to be filling up again and it’s great to be a destination again. This is going to be a great summer for the local area,” Buongiorno said.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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