Elise Holcey, a Savannah Arts Academy senior and soccer player in the Tormenta FC Academy, is the first player signed with Tormenta's team in the new USL W League starting in May 2022.
Elise Holcey might be considered a late arrival to the game among her peers, having started playing soccer at the ripe old age of 9.
"I get that a lot. People always expect me to say I was 3 when I started," Holcey, now 17, said Wednesday. "On my ninth birthday I remember scoring a goal. It was YMCA soccer when I started."
That was in Zanesville, Ohio, where she was growing up on her grandparents' farm. Her family moved to Savannah when Holcey was 11. She got involved in club soccer, played with and against girls older than her, and proved to be an elite talent.
Holcey will be first among her peers locally to sign with the South Georgia Tormenta FC women's team in the new USL W League, a national association which starts play in May 2022 with playoffs ending in late July. The Statesboro-based organization on Friday will announce Holcey as the first player on the roster.
"When I heard they were brainstorming to come up with this (W League), I said I really wanted to be on that," Holcey said. "I really want to get to the next level, and this is the next step to do that.
"I'm so exited to play up and play bigger soccer," she said. "I'm just ready to play now thinking about it."
Coming to Statesboro: South Georgia Tormenta FC soccer club to add women's team in 2022
Holcey's goal is to play professionally, such as in the National Women's Soccer League. The United Soccer League announced in June the formation of a new women's pre-professional league positioned as a pathway to the top pro league that would include high school and college players who can maintain their amateur status.
Holcey is a senior at Savannah Arts Academy, where she has played for the school soccer team and plans to compete this spring. She also has bolstered her soccer education by joining the Tormenta FC Academy at age 15 in 2019.
"It is full-time and year-round soccer," said Holcey, a striker and attacking midfielder currently the team captain of the Under-19 Select squad, Tormenta Academy's highest-level girls team.
"I have been thoroughly impressed with Elise, both on and off the field, since we started working together this past August," said Jim Robbins, the head coach of her academy team and the new W League entry. "On the field, she possesses all the soccer abilities needed to be successful in the USL W League.
"She has a unique attacking skill set that we can continue to develop and showcase here at Tormenta FC this summer and for the next few years of her career. She is a crafty dribbler, has great vision, creates opportunities for her teammates, and she can score goals of all different varieties in and around the penalty area."
More W League: Tormenta to field one of 8 founding women's soccer teams in USL W League in 2022
Robbins called her a dynamic and dangerous scorer. He also said she's professonal and a consummate teammate who has earned the respect of her teammates.
Holcey calls herself a natural leader in that she communicates well and encourages her teammates. Her strengths include ball control and ability to finish on scoring opportunities, but she sees areas for growth, too.
"I feel like I should work on my technique more and my skills getting around players, and I should probably be a little more confident, too," Holcey said.
She especially enjoys her role as a coach of academy players ages 2-10, particularly those 7-10 because they better understand coaching direction. There's one instruction all youth soccer coaches have to stress.
"Sharing is a really big deal, sharing the ball," Holcey said. "We have to teach them a little bit of life lessons. Other than that, it's a lot of soccer."
Her younger sister, Ava, also plays for the Tormenta FC Academy.
"Away from the field, Elise embodies everything that Tormenta FC is known for," Robbins said. "She fits seamlessly into our club culture, has great character, is a natural leader, and is a strong student. She is also an excellent teammate and a positive ambassador of the game. She truly defines what it means to be an athlete of good character. I look forward to working with her at the USL W League level."
While soccer wasn't her first sport as an elementary school student — she was into volleyball and archery — Holcey fell in love with it while watching the powerhouse U.S. women's national team on television. Her favorite player was Abby Wambach, and she models her game after Carli Lloyd's.
"You get a feeling when you're watch it, like I really want to do that," she recalled. "It just sparks something. Then when you're playing with your friends and you don't want to stop, it's that type of feeling. You just want to keep playing."
The Savannah Spirit's Elise Holcey comes up to defend a pass during a 6 vs. 6 soccer tournament on Jan. 23 at Benedictine Military School.
Holcey played last summer for the Savannah Spirit, another squad on the Coastal Empire soccer scene in the Women's Premier Soccer League. The Spirit's roster included current high school and college players as well as a few post-college players.
"It was so fun playing with college girls because they're older so you look up to them. They coach you as well," Holcey said.
She plans on playing in college, and said she has an offer from Southern Wesleyan, which she visited in Central, S.C. She's currently dual enrolled at Savannah Arts and the Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus in Savannah.
More: Tormenta FC offers soccer skills camps with emphasis on fun for children with disabilities
The Tormenta FC W League team, which will start play in May, is having an open tryout on Sunday, Dec. 12, with sessions from 10 a.m. to noon, and 2 to 3:30 p.m., at The Clubhouse Fields in Statesboro.
Athletes who want to try out can register ahead online for $75 at TormentaFC.com/trials or register as a walk-up on Dec. 12 for $100. All participants will receive a Tormenta FC training shirt.
The new women’s team will play its matches on Optim Health System Field at Tormenta FC’s new stadium in Statesboro. The facility also will serve as the home to the professional USL League One team, the amateur USL League Two squad and Georgia Southern University men’s and women’s NCAA Division I soccer teams.
For more information, follow Tormenta Women on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To learn more about the USL W League, visit USLWLeague.com or follow the W League on Twitter at @USLWLeague.
Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NathanDominitz
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: USL W League South Georgia Tormenta signs Savannah's Elise Holcey