Any soccer team that can attract players from all over the world to play during Phoenix's hellish summer must have something going for it. The aptly named Arizona Heatwave, an amateur women's soccer club in the United Soccer League's western division, plays its home opener against the Denver Lady Cougars this Saturday.
"Women's soccer in the middle of summer isn't always the biggest market," says Rick Kelsey, the team's general manager. But the team consistently lures members from across the country and even overseas. This year's roster includes players from Kansas City, Indiana, Philadelphia, and even Wollongong, Australia.
"It's getting hot, which is tough, but I love it here; it's really cool," says Lisa Hartley, an 18-year-old goalkeeper from Wollongong who played on the Australian U19 National Team in last year's U19 World Cup. "We're a good club, and we've been training hard. I really think we're going to make the top four and go to the finals."
Hartley isn't the only player with an impressive résumé. Forward Lindsey Eddleman was the all-time leading scorer at the University of Nebraska upon her graduation; midfield/forward Pam Bedzrah, a London native, was a 2002 NAIA All-American; and goalkeeper Laura Janke helped lead the San Diego Surf to a U19 national championship in 2002.
Good soccer isn't the Heatwave's only attraction -- the team is partnered with the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, which funds breast cancer research and domestic violence prevention.
"We're probably more proud of the stuff we've done off the field with various organizations," Kelsey says. "[Last year] we hosted a Pink Out,' similar to the Coyotes' White Out,' where the Mary Kay ladies sold tickets, and then everybody that came to the game got a pink tee shirt, and the players were driven in and introduced coming out of pink Cadillacs. We raised about $25,000 for the foundation."