Part Two of Chicago Series Features the History of the Reserves WPSL Success
Published Jul 23, 2021
Photo Credits - Chicago Red Stars Media


Sitting atop the Chicago WPSL scene is the Chicago Red Stars Reserves – an extension of the National Women’s Soccer League senior team who has been a staple in the windy city for 15 years.

Competing in the WPSL since the 2011 season, the Red Stars Reserves entered their ninth season in the league this year and did exactly what they usually do – win.

In 10 regular-season matches, the Reserves finished with seven wins, two draws, and a single loss while outscoring opponents 31/4. They clinched the Lake Michigan Conference Title after a 4-1 victory over Chicago City SC on July 14 – their third consecutive conference title.

The Reserves followed that performance with a 5-0 victory over Milwaukee Torrent to close out the 2021 season. At the helm of the Reserves is a name familiar with professional soccer in Chicago – Julianne Sitch.

Sitch played professionally for nine years after a four-year career at DePaul University. The Illinois native has played in three countries and competed with the senior Red Stars across three different leagues including the WPSL Elite League – the top level of professional women’s soccer in the United States before the NWSL in 2013.

That diverse professional history parlayed into assistant coaching positions. In 2014, after her final season, Sitch joined the University of Chicago as an assistant coach where the women’s team reached the Division III NCAA Championship just three years later.

The advantage that sets the Reserves apart from most teams in the league is the training the players receive that comes directly from coaches in the NWSL. Aside from her head role with the Reserves, Sitch also serves as an assistant for the senior NWSL side and uses the same tactics for her Reserves that senior team coach Rory Dames utilizes.


Give them the coaching and plan with the first team and kind of show them what that next level can be like,” Sitch said. “I have the same mentality as being a hard-pressing team/counter pressing team.”

The senior Red Stars are known around the NWSL as a side that will outwork their opponents. That same standard is instilled in college-level players through the Reserves side. An established history in the Midwest brings in some of the best players in the area for the summer WPSL seasons.

This season the Reserves had 14 players contribute to their 31 goals scored with half of those goals coming from University of Michigan senior midfielder Nicki Hernandez, University of South Carolina senior forward Ryan Gareis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte sophomore midfielder Piper Biziorek, and University of Notre Dame freshman midfielder Korbin Albert – the four combined for 15 goals.

Coming off First Team All-Big Ten Honors the previous collegiate season, Hernandez led the Wolverines in 2021 with six goals and two assists. She continued this pace with the Reserves notching five goals and an assist this season.

The Reserves are full of top players from large programs including 6-foot-3 Clemson University goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff who recorded six clean sheets during her WPSL campaign this season and midfielder Jessica De Filippo from the undefeated Arkansas Razorbacks out the Southeastern Conference who recorded two goals for the Reserves.

For players like Hernandez and her teammates, playing with the Reserves give them the opportunity to pursue a career at the professional level.

The Reserves has produced numerous talents that have taken the professional leap within the senior team including forward Zoey Goralski and defenders Sarah Gorden and Hannah Davision.

The success of the Reserves has spanned their entire nine seasons with the league – finishing first in conference standings for seven seasons, recording four undefeated seasons and three one-loss seasons, recording just a single loss since 2017 and conceding less than five goals in each of the last three seasons.

The Reserves won the WPSL Championship in 2015 with a 13-0-1 record while outscoring opponents 47/7. Their overall career record holds at 75-6-10 – a winning percentage of 87.91. While the on-field success is great, it’s not only about winning for Sitch.


One thing I’ve encouraged with the Red Star Reserves is jump out of your comfort zone,” Sitch said. “Meet new players. Have a different experience in the summer and help you grow as a person and on the field.

For Sitch, becoming a head coach is part of her own growth. While navigating both senior and reserves sides, she not only continues to be involved with a sport that has consumed a big piece of her life but also allows her to give back.


For me, personally, I played in the NWSL, the WPSL [Elite] league,” Sitch said. “The opportunity is to give back to the environment that gave me opportunities to pursue my dreams and play pro.”


   Author:  Thomas Costello,  @1thomascostello (Twitter)
  WPSL Contributor - Central Region