FLINT – It’s safe to say few people if any were more excited than Grand Blanc’s Jenna Blackburn when it was announced that Flint City AFC’s women’s soccer team would be playing out of Atwood Stadium this summer.
Like all college players, Blackburn plays in the summer to keep active for the upcoming fall season and the USL W League is perfect for her. She can stay close to home, prepare for the Western Michigan University fall season and play in front of family and friends.
So imagine what Blackburn is feeling like today after she scored a pair of goals – including the first in team history – to help Flint City AFC beat AFC Ann Arbor 4-2 Saturday night before an estimated 500 fans in its inaugural game.
“It’s great to just be back home and represent the city I really grew up in,” said Blackburn, who will be a junior at WMU. “Haven’t got to play here (at Atwood) in a quite a while so it’s really exciting. A lot of the girls come from really high-level schools and I expect it to be really competitive right off the bat.
“I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I heard about it and I’m really excited to get started. We have a lot to live up to with the (Flint City) Bucks because they did come in and immediately win the whole thing. But I definitely think we are able to compete at the same level as them for sure. ”
Alli Leonard of Troy and Butler University also scored twice for Flint, the first on a penalty kick.
Chloe Ricketts, who is just 14 years old, scored for Ann Arbor along with Brooklyn Whitehead.
Blackburn opened the scoring in the 22nd minute and then again in the 36th minute to make it 3-1 before assisting on Leonard’s second goal.
She and former Grand Blanc teammate Paige Webber, who will be a senior at Indiana, are two of the three Flint-area players signed by Flint City AFC. Emma Hiscock of Fenton, who plays for Louisville, also signed but she is out for the season with an injury.
Both Blackburn and Webber were prolific scorers in high school for Grand Blanc and they’ve continued that success in college.
Blackburn, who will be a junior forward at Western Michigan next season, averaged a goal a game during the Broncos’ spring season after scoring six last fall.
During her freshman season, she led the league in assists for WMU.
“I feel like I do have a little bit of expectations but I think if I just come out here and play like myself and just try to enjoy it, I’ll be able to play my best,” said Blackburn, a 2020 Grand Blanc grad. “It’s really exciting.”
Webber was one of the most prolific goal scorers in Flint-area history during four years at Grand Blanc.
She had more than 100 career goals, leading the Bobcats in goals for three straight years while making the 2018 All-State Dream Team.
Webber began her college career at Michigan State before transferring to Indiana last year.
She started every game at MSU as a freshman and last season was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for Indiana after recording just the 11th hat trick in school history.
Webber will be a senior forward at Indiana next season.
“She’s going to be a really great asset for us,” Blackburn said. “She’s just really powerful up top and she scores a lot of goals. We’re excited to have her. ”
Flint City AFC started the season with 18 players but will add more when the college season ends. They also plan to add some of the state’s best high school seniors when their season is over.
In all, Flint City AFC expects to have a pool of 45 players to choose from when the 12-game season is in full swing.
“It’s a really high-paced brand of soccer,” said coach Aaron Roy. “These young women are fantastic players and they’re very talented. They’re super competitive as well.
“I like that there’s so much talent right here in Michigan that we can put together a team that can still be recognized nationally. It’s pretty neat. ”
Flint City AFC’s roster includes college players from schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue and Stanford.
No. 1 goalkeeper Haley Craig, a team captain, will not be in the lineup until June 10 when her season at Stanford ends.
Flint City AFC returns to action Thursday against Indy Eleven FC at Atwood Stadium.
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