A page dedicated to TSF Academy's history and success stories shared by players and coaches.
TSF Wildcats (2006)
TSF Academy is celebrating the 15th and 10th year anniversary of two of its most successful girls’ teams US Club Soccer National Cup Championship triumphs.
The Club want to not only remember these two amazing feats but more importantly to recognize the young ladies who wore our club colors with pride and have since moved on to become successful women in different fields of business.
Here are the recollections of 8 TSF Alumni, but first an introduction from our General Manager and the Head Coach of both those teams, The Wildcats and The Fire - Mark White
Many people - players, coaches, parents, family members, friends, and fans - dream of winning a National Championship in any sport. It brings people together emotionally with a single objective. At any given moment the outcome can change. No one can prepare you for how you will feel at that moment. To this day I still feel extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with the Wildcats and the Fire teams. These young ladies were the epitome of what TSF Academy was all about. They were not only good athletes, but they also respected each other, their opponents, and the roles they played when they represented the Club. They wore the uniform with pride, and they gave everything on the field of play.
Fifteen years ago, in the summer of 2006 I was the Head Coach of the TSF Academy U17 Wildcats Girls team. They travelled to North Carolina, and in one of the most incredible games of soccer, they were crowned US Club Soccer National Cup Champions. Playing against a very strong Ottawa Fury team, the Wildcats were 1-0 down, came back to 1-1, then went 2-1 down only to once again pull a goal back to level the score at 2-2 just before half-time. The second half was equally as exciting, and nerve-wracking. We took the lead for the first time a few minutes into the restart, 3-2, and kept pressuring for the majority of the half, only to see Ottawa break and tie the game with just 10 minutes left in regulation. With over-time looming, the Wildcats dug deep and scored the winner with just a few minutes left.
This was an incredible result, an incredible game, and an incredible group of young ladies. Nicole Locantore, Alexa Notte, Risa Rabinowitz and Julia Zorn were each an integral part of the team:
I was a member of the TSF Academy U17 Wildcats in 2006. I had a rather non-traditional way of coming to play with the Wildcats. I was living in Maryland during my sophomore year of high school, playing varsity soccer for my high school and on a competitive travel club team, but one thing was constantly missing on the teams I played on. To this day I can’t put into words what was missing, but I started guest playing at college showcase tournaments and one very meaningful weekend I played with the Wildcats. I noticed immediately that this team had what was missing from other teams. They had a passion to play and had fun doing it. I left that weekend wanting that feeling every time I played, and I was lucky enough that it was mutual. I played in another tournament, then another until I became a member playing with them consistently. Every player on the team was unique, but somehow when 11 players were on the field, everything came together.
I often think back on my time on that team as the years continue to pass and I am reminded of the wonderful soccer that we played, how it felt to be part of that team and the confidence my experiences have forever left me with to tackle challenges as they come.
The US Club Nationals was a culmination of months of work and goal driven behavior. Over the year prior, we had travelled around the east coast with many ups and a few downs! We were consistently learning how to play better together and compete at a higher level. We always came to play, and fought to leave everything we had on the field, even when it felt like there wasn’t much more that we could give. The US Club Soccer National tournament was a specifically hard fought group of games, both mentally and physically. Hot temperatures added to our fatigue and plagued the week of the tournament. Every opponent was difficult with skills and strengths that made us adjust and recreate some of our play. We went into the championship game feeling proud of our accomplishments and desiring a win. Twice during the game we fell behind and although our dreams seemed to be crushed instantaneously, through much determination we were able to overcome the deficits and finish as US Club Soccer National Champions. Every moment of doubt that had occurred in the prior year was behind us. It was pure elation to be able to stand up as a team and accept the championship title.
Even after graduating High School and first attending Towson University for 1 year and then transferring to Iona College (playing at both), I continued to play for TSF during the summer for the first two years of college. After college I completed medical school in Philadelphia, PA and I am currently a General Surgery Resident (PGY4) in Southampton, New York. To this day though, I look back to my time with that team, in that moment and the emotions come flooding back. It was an experience that I look back on to give me strength on days I need a boost and confidence when I feel that I may not be up to the challenge. I am continuously reminded of my perseverance and passion when I think back on these memories and bring them with me in all endeavors. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I had to play on that team, the continued friendships I made and the accomplishments we were able to achieve. We were lucky enough to get together with TSF players and coach Mark White just before COVID - it was great to catch up with everyone, and reminisce about the team, and some of the great stories we each had.
I was part of TSF Academy during my High School years (Wayne Hills) and even into my Collegiate years. I attended Columbia University in New York City. It was a dream to attend an Ivy League school, and because of my time playing with TSF those doors were opened. I played at Columbia (#golions!) but unfortunately, I tore my ACL my year after college, and with two additional ACL tears, my soccer playing days were cut short!
Fifteen years ago crazy. We were definitely the definition of a work hard, play hard team. We were a cohesive unit, even though we came from so many backgrounds, and even different states. I mean, you really have to love a team to travel from Maryland for weekly practice! It was this commitment to the team that really helped us to excel. We knew each player’s strengths, and we played to them. We knew what made people tick, and we leaned into that. We constantly worked to get better as a unit, and Coach Mark White gave us the floor to do it. Although he didn’t always agree with our choice of practice music or water break antics, he knew how to pump us up, how to inspire us, and how to really coach us in a way that made us all shine— ultimately leading us to a National Championship. Although the specifics of the tournament seem to blur, every time the pictures of us holding the championship cup surface, the feelings all come rushing back. We had been to plenty of other tournaments, but Mark really wanted this one, and we were a year away from college… so this was the time. This was our tournament.
My life has certainly changed, I've been in advertising sales since college and am currently working at Spotify as a Client Partner. I do however keep in touch with TSF players/coaches - a handful are still some of my best friends today. We talk regularly about all things life, love, and soccer! I can always count on a text chain when the USWNT is playing.
Soccer soccer soccer - my whole life, all my big memories, and some of my closest friends, came out of soccer. But the thing is, while soccer brought us all together, soccer wasn’t the only thing I cared about. And it definitely wasn’t the only thing that brought me joy. What brought me true joy, the purest form of it, was the people. After joining TSF, some of my best memories pull me back to Tuesday and Thursday night practices, exhausted from a full day of high school (I was a 4-year starter at West Essex High), walking into the “bubble”, and seeing MY PEOPLE, some of my closest friends, gathered around getting ready for practice. We were just so excited to see each other. I don’t even know how to explain it without it sounding cheesy. But playing soccer with THESE PEOPLE, with THIS COACH, is what brought me the most happiness. Hands down.
TSF was, and still is a big part of my life……
After graduating High School, I attended Trinity College Freshman year, and then transferred to Villanova. I continued to play for TSF during those years, and for their W-League semi-pro team the North Jersey Valkyries. It was the only way for me to stay in game shape. And I missed everyone when we were all away!
My memories of the National Cup final are still vivid. I scored the tying goal right before halftime - it was a header off a cross from Nicole and it was an electric moment. But what I remember most about that goal is how full circle it was for me and Nicole to have that moment together, having played alongside each other for so many years. I also felt incredibly happy as I rushed towards my teammates, my friends, in complete and total excitement. The second half continued to be a rollercoaster ride. We took the lead early on, only to see Ottawa tie the game with just under 10-minutes left. Then the last few minutes! I remember receiving a throw-in and passing it back to Danner who played a great ball to Daria. Her flicked header went into the area and as the Ottawa goalkeeper came rushing off her line, out of nowhere Risa ran through and delicately chipped it over the GKs outstretched arms. Everyone on the team went crazy!!
I knew it then and I know it now - those truly were some of the best days of my life. And I will likely never have an experience like it again where it all just comes together like that - coaches, players, talent, grit, winning, caring.
I now live and work in New York City at Google, but I keep in touch with many of the girls and am so thankful we got to squeeze in a mini reunion in NYC just before covid hit! I was at Jess Olivia’s wedding not too long ago, and Nicole and I talk all the time. Risa and I (literally) bumped into each other on a NYC sidewalk once. Love all the girls so much. We keep in touch with Mark all the time. It’s such a special bond the team had that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I was at Tenafly High School when I joined TSF Academy. Another student, Liz Roper, and I, were looking for a club program to really help our development, and we had heard great things about TSF. Little was I to know that this team would have such a huge impact on my life.
I remember winning that championship game like it was yesterday. It was the last few minutes of the game, and we were tied 3-3. I remember thinking to myself that my legs wouldn’t last through 20 extra minutes of over-time; I had been diagnosed with Achilles’ tendinitis and my calves were on fire. In the final few minutes, I watched Alexa Notte dive for a header to keep the ball in play, didn’t put her arms out, fell right on her chest, it was pure effort. I thought to myself, “we’re not going to have extra time, we’re doing this now.”
I remember the ball being flicked on and soaring towards Ottawa's keeper. I remember launching myself towards the goal, neck and neck with a defender, and suddenly I felt no pain in my legs. I sprinted faster than I ever had in my life and chipped the ball over the fingertips of the goalie into the net. The next thing I knew, my entire team was on top of me as we fell to the ground.
This still is one of the best moments I’ve ever had. The feeling - indescribable. The strange thing is that it didn’t feel like my goal. The razor-sharp focus everyone had during that entire tournament, and the blood, sweat and tears we all left on the field even in those last minutes, was what scored that goal. I’ve never felt about any other team, the way I felt about that TSF team. We were