The University of Lethbridge women’s soccer program announced the signing of a home-grown recruit on Tuesday afternoon, as midfielder Drew Dortman committed to her hometown Pronghorns.
The signing wasn’t a surprise to those around the program, as Dortman has been on the Horns’ radar for several years as a member of the Pronghorn Elite Preparation (PEP) Academy.
“We’ve known Drew for a few years now,” said co-head coach Ilsa Wong. “She’s not only been a part of our PEP program — and is our first sort of graduate of our PEP program, which is going to be a really good advertising piece for us in terms of getting more players into the PEP program — but we’ve been watching her for a while.
“She’s probably one of the hardest working athletes that I think we’ve had come into the program in the recent past.”
The PEP program was started by the Pronghorns three years ago, and Wong said the aim was to start grooming local players to be ready for the university level.
“It’s for girls only, and we welcome all girls from the community, surrounding areas who really want to spend some more devoted time working on their technical skills and becoming more intelligent soccer players,” Wong said.
For Dortman, familiarity with the program’s coaches and current players was a selling point in choosing to sign with the university.
“I already know the girls, playing and training with them, and it’s been super awesome,” she said. “It will be a really easy transition, which is super nice.”
For those involved with the PEP program, Dortman’s signing was what they hope will be the first of many academy graduates to come.
“Finally, we’re getting some young players who are recognizing there is some value to doing more work on the technical piece, and now to have Drew join our program, it’s just a huge bonus for us.”
Dortman has spent the last two seasons playing with the Lethbridge Football Club (LFC) in the Alberta Major Soccer League (AMSL) alongside many of the Pronghorns players, and she believes her versatility on the field is one of her biggest assets.
Wong said that while Dortman has been training to play center midfield, her ability to play multiple positions is a huge bonus.
“She is strong. She’s also an intelligent soccer player, which will definitely benefit her no matter where we end up putting her,” Wong said.
For Dortman, the opportunity to grow at a higher level is what she finds most thrilling.
“I’m excited to play at a level where I get to challenge myself,” she said. “Obviously, when you’re in your league, and you’re one of the best players in your league… the best go on to play university.
“Now you’re not the best, you have to work your way up there, and that’s super exciting. You get to be better, and everyone around you challenges you, and that’s honestly the most exciting part.”