Angela Konstantaras and Kelli Toland never thought they would have this chance. With their days at Penn dwindling to a close and their collegiate playing days over, these two senior soccer standouts have been given the opportunity to continue playing the sport they love. Toland and Konstantaras, along with 2000 Penn graduates Jill and Andrea Callaghan, are among 18 women invited to try out for the Philadelphia Charge of the newly established Women's United Soccer Association at a free agent camp this week in East Petersburg, Pa. The Charge are one of eight teams in the WUSA, which will kick off its inaugural season later this spring. The Charge are permitted to invite 28 players to their preseason camp, which will begin in several weeks. After an allocation of players from the U.S. national team and two drafts of collegiate and international players, Philadelphia already has 24 women on its roster. The team must cut the roster to 20 by the start of the season on April 22. "It's just playing soccer," Toland said. "It's a tryout, but we're just going to play soccer." During their time with the Red and Blue, Konstantaras, Toland and the Callaghan sisters have excelled on the soccer field, leading the women's program to the most successful years in its short history. In 1999, Penn advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the elevation of the program to varsity status in 1991. The Quakers also captured ECAC Tournament championships in 1998 and 2000. Andrea Callaghan graduated in May as Penn's all-time leading scorer with 68 points. Toland moved into second place on that list this past season, leaving Rhodes Field with 60 career points. Jill Callaghan is third in Penn history with 59. This fall, Toland earned second team All-Ivy honors despite being hampered by an ankle injury throughout the season. She has only recently been given the OK to play again. "I was just cleared to run two weeks ago," Toland said, who led the Ivy League in scoring as a junior and earned All-Ivy honors in each of her four years. "I just did sprints for the first time in three months. I haven't tackled anyone or had any contact, so it'll be interesting to see how that works out." This week's free agent camp, which includes players from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, will begin this morning at the LANCO Fieldhouse. Morning and afternoon sessions will be held today and tomorrow, and the camp will conclude with a morning session on Thursday. If Konstantaras and Toland are selected by the Charge, they will have to withdraw from school and complete their degrees in the fall, a decision that will be difficult for both of them. "I would really have to think about it," Toland said. "My parents just finished paying tuition. I don't know, with two months left, if I could withdraw and give up the opportunity to be with my friends." "It's one of those things where you don't want to cross that bridge until you have to," added Konstantaras, who was named honorable mention All-Ivy this season and was considered one of the best one-on-one players in the Ivies. For now, Penn's two senior midfielders are just grateful for the opportunity to possibly continue their playing careers as professionals. Competing against superstars like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Brianna Scurry is something which these former Quakers would cherish. "To think they'd be your teammates -- it's kind of surreal," Konstantaras said. When the WUSA was founded, each of the league's eight franchises -- the Atlanta Beat, Bay Area CyberRays, Boston Breakers, Carolina Courage, New York Power, Philadelphia Charge, San Diego Spirit and Washington Freedom -- was allocated several players from the World Cup champions. After a 15-round draft in the fall, each team picked up four more players at a tryout camp and draft in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this past weekend. Toland, Konstantaras and the Callaghans did not even know they might have the chance to participate in the WUSA's first season until they received an e-mail inviting them to the free agent camp several weeks ago. "All we were given was an itinerary and hearsay," Konstantaras said. "We just have to go into it and work as much as we can and do what they tell you." That chance to play for the Charge would be a great honor, especially for Toland, who has spent her entire life in Philadelphia. "It would be a blast," she said. "I've gotten phone calls from people who just randomly found out and they're like, 'Oh my God, I'm going to come watch you.'" "I've grown up here. I'm still tight with all my friends from home. It would be crazy. My whole family's in the Philadelphia area, so it would be amazing." For Konstantaras, who grew up across the country in Pleasant Hill, Calif., the chance to play professionally is just as exciting. "For me, [soccer] has been one of those things that I could always look forward to," she said. "It will always be there. It's always been there. "It's something that I just don't think I can let go of yet."Comments powered by Disqus
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