Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Megan Lindsay in Finland; Erin Craig headed to Sweden

Erin Craig and Megan Lindsay continuing their careers abroad (photos: Gerald Barnhart, Wilson Tsoi/GoalWA.net)
A pair of recent college graduates are embarking on summer seasons abroad. Spokane native Megan Lindsay departed over the weekend for her second year across the Atlantic, this time heading to Finland. In April, Great Falls native Erin Craig will be joining a club in Sweden for her first experience playing overseas.

A year ago, Lindsay was all set to head to Finland to play for Kokkola F10, but things took a turn and she found herself making her professional debut in Iceland after completing her collegiate career at Seattle Pacific University.

"Iceland had the whole package --great team, amazing city, and wonderful teammates," Lindsay said of her time with UMF Stjarnan, 18-0-0 champions of the top-flight league last year.

This time around, she will indeed join up with Kokkola F10. Kokkola is centrally located on the western coast of Finland off the Baltic Sea.

"Yes, it was the original team I was going to play for last year. The coach was still interested in having me come out this year, and I really wanted a longer contract than the one I had in Iceland. So I guess it just worked out for both of us," she said of the second chance. "I don't know much about Finland, but I think Kokkola has more opportunities for me to succeed as a soccer player than Iceland. And that makes me very excited."

The Finnish side is in its fourth season of existence and is a rising contender in the league, going from seventh in their debut 2011 campaign to fifth a year later. They finished sixth last season with a 7-10-1 regular season record after seeing their season fall apart with five consecutive losses at the end. They then went 0-4-1 in the five-game 'playoff season' among the top six teams.

Last year, a pair of Americans did well in the league with Monica Dolinsky finishing fifth in goals (11 goals, 1 assist) while playing for Aland United, the league champion, and Samantha Monahan tallied nine goals on behalf of Honka, who finished third. Three Americans played for Kokkola F10 last year. Leigh Jakes made 19 appearances, Ekaterina Lazareva made 10 and Aariana Calderon saw action in 14. Jakes, a defender, and Calderon each tallied two goals.

Her second year abroad continues the Gonzaga Prep product's continued effort to chase a challenge in her career. Lindsay guided SPU to the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament for a third consecutive season in 2012. She also led the team in scoring in her final three years, finishing her career as the program’s third all-time highest scorer with 41 tallies.
Megan & Colleen Lindsay at NLI signing event

Lindsay leaves home on the heels of a disappointing family moment for her as she was on hand to see her younger sister Colleen sign her Letter of Intent to play for Western Washington, her school's rival in the Division II GNAC.

"I am proud of her despite them being long-time rivals with my school. We joke a lot about it, actually," Megan said of Colleen's decision. "She always tells me she will buy me a Western shirt and make me wear it. It's always hard to see her go there but I can't lie, she chose a great team to be a part of. Last year they had the best season in school history, so I can't wait to see how far they will go with Colleen. I know she will be a perfect asset to the team.

"And sadly, I might have to wear a Western shirt. But nine times out of 10, I will always have a Seattle Pacific shirt underneath it."

Though the two nations are quite expansive, the pair of northwest natives will only be approximately 360 miles apart from one another this summer.

In two months Craig will make a similar trek to join up with Assi IF in Risogrund, located in northern Sweden on the northern tip of the Baltic Sea.

Assi IF plays in Division 1 - Norrland, which is the among the regional leagues in the third tier of the Swedish women's system, positioned beneath the top tier Damallsvenskan and second tier Elitettan. They captured the Norrland region's title in 2013 with a 17-2-3 record. They kick off their 2014 campaign April 27.

"I got connected to that team though a teammate - Caroline Karlsson - on Emerald City FC who is originally from there and also played with them before she came to the states," said Craig. "I talked with the coaches and they watched some film on me and we decided it would be a good fit."

Last season, Craig scored four goals for Emerald City, ranking tied for fourth in the Northwest Division in scoring with several other players. She was the second leading scorer on the team. She scored 17 goals combined in her junior and senior seasons at the University of Montana, leading the Grizzlies to the Big Sky tournament championship in 2011 and a share of the regular season title in 2012 before falling in the tournament final via penalties.

"My expectations have been the same throughout my whole soccer career. I want to be the best soccer player I can be. And my main goal with my soccer career is to continue to play with and against the best competition possible, and to continue to grow as a player. I really feel that playing for Assi IF Is going to do that for me."

"It's really exciting and I'm really looking forward to learning their style of play. I'm so passionate about this sport and the fact that I get to travel to a foreign country and play soccer for six months is very surreal to me. It's something I've worked for and I'm very grateful to have another opportunity where I get to live my passion."

You can follow each team's results at the following sites (note: Everysport is in another language)