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Greater Tulsa Reporter


Fortuna Tulsa Brings Women’s Soccer to Tulsa

By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer

TOP TALENT: Anna Beffer became the first signee of Fortuna Tulsa, an expansion franchise in the WPSL, in March.


Courtesy photo


Anna Beffer was nearing the end of her soccer career at Oklahoma State and her future in the sport appeared cloudy at best. Then she learned about an amateur league created for players just like her, the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

 Suddenly, the Tulsa Union product had hope and an opportunity to fulfill her ambition of playing beyond college. Her dream came true in March when the attacking midfielder became the first signee of the expansion franchise Fortuna Tulsa.

 “I wanted to continue and play professionally in Europe, but this is a good transition for me,’’ says Beffer, an academic first-team All-American on OSU’s Big 12 Conference championship team in 2017. “Playing in Tulsa will keep me fit and ready to sign a professional contract at some point.

 “I can give back to the community, and then I’d like to go abroad and experience other leagues and clubs. Women’s soccer is growing in the U.S., and the competition level (in the WPSL) is really good. There are a lot of talented players here and a lot of interest in the league. I want to continue to play and keep getting better.’’

 Starting its 22nd season in 2018, the WPSL is the largest amateur league for women and made up of 115 clubs from all across the United States. Fortuna Tulsa was the brainchild of co-owners Barry Williams and Dave Hibbard, business partners in The Evolutions Group, builders of outpatient surgery centers throughout the country.     
    
 “Barry’s daughter plays at the youth level, and he realized that outside of making it at the collegiate level, there is nothing more here,’’ Hibbard says. “We want to establish connectivity between the city of Tulsa and women’s soccer, whether it be youth or college level. We want to stand behind it and be proud of it. We’re organizing a good base, and it will continue to grow.’’ 

 Wayne Farmer, a Welshman who played at both TU and ORU, serves as the general manager of the franchise, and his first mission has been to publicize its formation and upcoming season. Fortuna opens play on May 25 and home games will be played at the TU Soccer Complex.

 “Tulsa has the Roughnecks, but women’s soccer has not been given as much love,’’ Farmer says. “We will be the only women’s team in town in all sports since the Shock are gone. Fortuna is the Roman goddess of good luck and good fortune. Fortuna Tulsa means ‘Good Luck Tulsa.’ 

 Farmer says that he, along with Williams and Hibbard, wanted a name that was both memorable and fortuitous. They are banking on Fortuna enjoying more success than the recently departed FC Tulsa Spirit, a member of the WPSL through 2017.

 Fortuna will play in the Southwest Division along with Oklahoma City FC, FC Wichita, Little Rock Rangers, FC Dallas and the Texas Spurs. Following a 12-game regular season, the division winner will play in the regional tournament and the winner there advances to the Final Four in Oklahoma City in mid-July.

 Tickets to Fortuna home games will cost $5 with season tickets $50. They are available at www.fortunatulsa.com. 

 “Travel costs, meals and training costs for players will be provided by the owners, but we are looking for sponsorships,’’ says Farmer, who noted that 80 percent of the team’s 30-member roster will be made up of local players. “Some of our players will be here just to train during their college’s offseason. Some will be graduates, and I won’t rule out high school players.

 “Women’s soccer is booming, and our youth teams locally have done great things. A lot of our players will have come through that program. We want to give the girls the opportunity to play in front of big crowds and our games will be fun. We’ll have good food, live music and the opportunity for tail-gating. We’re hoping to have 2,000 to 3,000 fans a game.’’   

 Farmer says local youth clubs have already requested speakers from the team and invitations have also come from schools. Creating a high community profile is one of the club’s major goals. Head coach Mike Wilson, a Scotsman, is expected to be a proficient representative of Fortuna in community promotions.  

 Wilson, 28, played at Northeastern State in Tahlequah and coached there as an assistant. He served as the men’s and women’s head coach at Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa, before taking the Fortuna job. Wilson’s assistants in Tulsa will be Donivan Bradshaw, who coaches the TSC Hurricane club team, and Michael Moritz, who mentors the Blitz United club team. Moritz is also the women’s coach at Rogers State.  

 “We will play free flowing, ball on the floor, exciting soccer,’’ said Farmer. “There will be more passing and the game will be fun and creative. We just want the city to give women’s soccer a try.’’

 Many of the Fortuna players would also like to try the National Women’s Soccer League, the current major pro circuit, where salaries average $37,000 a year. There are no official farm teams of the NWSL franchises, but some coaches do look to the WPSL for help when needed.

 “We have two main goals. We want the girls who play for us to have the best experience they can possibly have, both on the field and off the field,’’ Farmer said. “We want them to succeed as players and we want to help them find jobs in the community. We want them to be in the media and well-known.’’

 As a member of Fortuna, that’s exactly what Beffer wants too. She has big plans for her future, in soccer and in life. She plans on graduating from OSU in May with a degree in finance and management.

 “I’m looking at a career in corporate banking for investing,’’ says Beffer, an all-state selection at Union. “I really want to work for a sports franchise in administration and then I want to work on my Master’s at some time.

 “I’m excited about playing in Tulsa because I grew up here and went to school close to home. I idolized college players growing up, and I want to give people a chance to come out and watch. I think this is going to take off, and I hope Tulsa feels as passionate about it as we do.’’    

Updated 04-27-2018

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