SOCCER -- The Ela Elite Soccer Club is not the area's biggest, but it has a penchant for churning out college players.
Carmel senior Kassidy Brown and Lake Zurich senior Hailey Chmela each signed an NCAA Division I letter-of-intent with the University of Illinois and Valparaiso, respectively, last week. Warren senior Kelsey Armour will play for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
All three girls played for the Elite U-18 team. In 2007, these girls won the Midwest Regional National Championship in Des Moines, Iowa. They ultimately finished third in the national tournament.
"Playing for (Ela) has benefited me tremendously," Brown said. "We've traveled everywhere and I've gotten a lot of looks from colleges because of the club."
Brown is used to playing up top, but the Illinois coaches informed her there is a good chance they will use her as a defender.
"I suggested to my coach earlier this year that I play more in the back so I won't be shocked when I get there," Brown said. "I really like (defending). You can really benefit the team."
Illinois coach Janet Rayfield loves the way Brown carries herself on the field.
"Kassidy plays with fierce determination," said Brown, on the fightingillini.com Web site. "Her tenacity and ability to attack and defend with the same intensity may carve out a role for her as a defender. Wherever she ends up on the field, you know she will battle and fight from the start to the finish."
Club coach Tom Chmela has no doubt Brown will succeed in the Big Ten.
"We don't pigeonhole kids into one position," he said. "She can play anywhere on the field. She has the skill and the speed."
Hailey Chmela said her club experience will help her at Valparaiso.
"We've played so many good teams," said Chmela, who enjoyed the opportunity to play club soccer for her father. "That has prepared me well to go up against the highest level of competition."
Armour has a chance to make an immediate contribution at UW-Parkside.
"She reads the game well," Tom Chmela said. "She should do well over at Parkside."
Other Ela players advancing to the next level are Fremd's Danielle Romano (East Carolina), Glenbrook South's Jannelle Flaws (Illinois), Naperville Central's Hillary Scott (Illinois State), Wheaton Warrenville South's Nicole La Petina (Wisconsin), Glenbrook South's Kelly Brait (Dartmouth), Maine South's Amanda Brait (Wheaton), Naperville Central's Taylor Heatherly (Baylor), Deanna Libric (Northern Illinois) and Naperville North's Rycke Guiney (Marist).
"I'm very proud and excited for all these kids," Tom Chmela said. "This is really one of the first elite teams to come out of the club, and the most girls that have ever signed."