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Omaha Gross goalie will go from high school all-star match to pro-am league
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Omaha Gross goalie will go from high school all-star match to pro-am league

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OMAHA — Goalie Alexus Townsend had to try and stop some of the best goal scorers in Class B during a girls all-star soccer match Friday.

But she’s used to that from practicing with a team of current and past NCAA Division I women’s soccer players. Townsend plays for the Gretna Elite Academy U-23 team that plays in United Women’s Soccer.

That’s a pro-am league, which is a designation based on how the league is operated. The Gretna squad is all-amateur, but some of the players are playing in the league to get ready for the upcoming college season or to try and get the attention of teams in the professional leagues.

On Friday, Townsend represented Omaha Gross one final time. She was the MVP of the Class B match in the Nebraska High School Soccer Senior Showcase at Omaha Skutt.

Townsend was MVP despite being the goalie for the team that lost. But Townsend made several saves that kept the match close, including one great diving one, and it took some well-executed goals to score against Townsend. And then in the final minutes of the match, Townsend moved from the net to a field position and scored a goal on a long free kick.

It was the visiting team that won the match 4-2, led by two goals apiece from Carmen Dudley of Ralston and Cece Behrens of Omaha Skutt. Addi Ernstmeyer and Lauren Stull from Lincoln Lutheran/Raymond Central were each on the winning squad.

Rylee Eschliman (Northwest) scored the other goal of the match in a losing effort.

The third-year event is a fundraiser for Special Olympics Nebraska, and has replaced the Shrine Soccer Classic. Townsend said she had a great time.

“I think I just became friends with all of them,” she said.

Townsend has been the starting keeper for Omaha Gross since she was a freshman.

Then she got the invite to play for the Gretna Elite pro-am team this summer. For women’s soccer players the setup is similar to how college baseball players spread out across the nation to play in various leagues during the summer.

The team has some of the biggest names in Nebraska soccer from recent years including Skylar Heinrich (from Elkhorn played for Creighton), Hannah Davis (from Lincoln Southwest played for Nebraska), Delaney Stekr (from Omaha Marian plays for Minnesota) and Katie Stoneburner (from Millard West plays for Nebraska).

Former college players Jaylyn (Odermann) Armstrong (Nebraska) and Jaylin Bosak (Creighton) also play on the team.

Townsend is one of only four players on the 33-player roster who was still in high school this year. Townsend began practicing with Gretna Elite soon after the high school season ended. The practices are “intense.”

“The effort is almost perfect,” Townsend said. “The speed is so much different from anything you would expect. Out of high school, it’s almost like a culture shock.”

She was the starting keeper during Gretna's exhibition match on Thursday. This summer the team will play teams from Kansas City, Missouri; Springfield, Missouri; St. Louis; Wichita, Kansas.

After that Townsend will play NCAA Division II soccer for Northern State in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Northern State found Townsend when she was playing a club soccer match.

“We were at a ECNL event for Gretna Elite Academy and one of the (Northern State) coaches noticed me, because one of my teammates was committed there,” Townsend said. “He just liked me so much he called me the next day and said I really want you on our team. That’s how it all started.”

In the boys match, Jr. Casillas from Lexington put on a show in leading the home team to a 4-0 win. Casillas scored three goals, with the first coming just 52 seconds into the match. All three of his goals came in the opening 23 minutes. Eduardo Gomez from Lexington scored the other goal.

Casillas was one of just two Class B boys players that made the Super-State soccer team for this season.

The Class A matches are Saturday at 5 p.m. (girls) and 7:30 (boys).

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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Husker volleyball/women's basketball reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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