Metuchen, NJ — The Great Lakes Division consisted of eight teams but evolved into a four-way battle among the Michigan Legends, Michigan Jaguars, Nationals SC, and Michigan Hawks, all vying for the top two spots to play in the Great Lakes Division Championship. The Michigan Legends eventually emerged as the Great Lakes Division Champions finishing the regular season with an unbeaten record of 5-0-2.
The Jaguars secured second place on goal difference. and delivered an emphatic performance in the Division Championship by defeating the Legends 3-0. The Jaguars truly hit their stride in the postseason, overcoming the Cincinnati Sirens to progress to the National Championship. There, they defeated Sporting CT in the National Semi-Final and later secured victory against Santa Clarita Blue Heat, earning them the prestigious title of the 2023 UWS National Champions.
As a result, the Great Lakes Division awards were heavily dominated by the National Champions, the Michigan Jaguars. Batoul Reda of the Michigan Jaguars earned the Great Lakes Division Goalkeeper of the Year accolade, the Jaguars’ central defensive midfielder, Natalie Kocsis secured the Great Lakes Division Defensive Player of the Year award and their Head Coach Douglas Steinard received the Great Lakes Division Coach of the Year award. Michigan Legend’s forward Steph Strong received the final award, Great Lakes Division Offensive Player of the Year.
Batoul Reda was a regular feature for the Michigan Jaguars, leading the team from between the posts. With her 5 foot 8 stature, Reda’s remarkable reach meant it was challenging for any player to score past her, but it was in the National Championship where she truly made a name for herself in the UWS. In that pivotal game on the big stage, Reda played exceptionally well, thwarting SC Blue Heat’s attempts multiple times to maintain a clean sheet. She even saved a pair of penalties during the shootout to help her team secure the 2023 National Championship title. Reda was named the National Championship Player of the Match in this game and subsequently has been named the Great Lakes Division Goalkeeper of the Year.
Natalie Kocsis played a pivotal role as a key member of the National Champions, the Michigan Jaguars, featuring in every game. Kocsis played an important role in the Jaguars’ midfield, most notably her tenacious ability to break up play and shut down attacks made her stand out. Equally, Kocsis utilized her central role to help her side maintain their shape as well as distribute the ball to build up their impressive attack that scored 30 goals in the regular season. As a result, Natalie Kocsis has been named the Great Lakes Division Defensive Player of the Year.
Steph Strong assumed a commanding role at the forefront of the Michigan Legends attack, from the front, emerging as the driving force behind their triumphant 2023 season scoring over half of the side’s goals ultimately helping them achieve the Great Lakes Division title. Strong’s unwavering determination and ceaseless mobility in the attacking third made her a formidable challenge for opposing defenses. Her relentless efforts were rewarded as she averaged more than one goal per game. As a result, Steph Strong has been named the Great Lakes Offensive Player of the Year.
Entering his third season of coaching in the UWS and his second season in the top tier of UWS play with the Michigan Jaguars, Jaguars Head Coach Douglas Steinard navigated a challenging Great Lakes conference. His team boasted the best attacking record in the Central Conference, amassing an impressive 30 goals in seven games. The team reached its peak at the perfect moment, scoring 12 goals during the final week of the regular season, providing them with the confidence they needed to progress and defeat four top teams in the UWS. Most notably, this included overcoming the two-time National Champions, SC Blue Heat (in 2021 and 2016) in the National Championship leading the Michigan Jaguars to be crowned the 2023 UWS National Champions. Steinard’s vast experience in the women’s game at both the club and collegiate level proved to be a valuable asset to the Jaguars. As a result, Douglas Steinard is the Great Lakes Division Coach of the Year.
GK – Batoul Reda (Michigan Jaguars)
D – Kyra Karfonta (Michigan Jaguars)
D – Alia Frederick (Michigan Legends)
D – Solana Kelly (Michigan Legends)
D – MacKenzie Dollison (Futsal Factory)
M – Natalie Kocsis (Michigan Jaguars)
M – Cecillia Steinwascher (Nationals SC)
F – Olivia Thomas (Michigan Hawks)
F – Steph Strong (Michigan Legends)
F – Noel Blain (Michigan Jaguars)
F – Sydney Chura (Michigan Jaguars)
United Women’s Soccer (UWS) is a national pro-am league founded in December 2015 on the basis of providing equality, opportunity, and respect for the women’s game. UWS has proven to be an innovative league that has paved the way for the further advancement of women’s soccer. Eighty-plus teams based in the United States and Canada comprise two distinct levels of competition: UWS and UWS League Two (UWS2).
With over 38 NWSL draftees & 100 professional contracts to its name, UWS provides high-level competition for college players, aspiring & former professionals, and international stars. The season runs from May until the end of July, culminating in a National Championship.