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Former CEC players thrive with Duluth FC Academy team

The former Lumberjacks were looking for a higher level of competition as they prepared for the next level of soccer.

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Drake Schramm, a forward with Duluth FC, looks to shoot the ball during a game on Friday, July 30, 2021, at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
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Last season, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Drake Schramm scored 21 goals and recorded 17 assists in leading his team to an undefeated regular season.

Over the winter, Schramm committed to play for Wisconsin-Superior this fall and was looking for a higher level of competition to prepare him for the college game.

Three years prior, the Lumberjacks’ Dru Senich recorded five shutouts as the team’s goaltender and moved on to play soccer at Lake Superior College in Duluth. Senich, a 2019 Cloquet graduate, was also looking to play against better competition in the hope of gaining a scholarship to play soccer for an NCAA Division II school.

Almost two years ago, Mark Magnuson approached Duluth FC owner Tim Sas about developing an academy program to pair with the National Premier Soccer League team. NPSL is a semi pro-level league with teams around the country.

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“We both had the same idea in mind,” Magnuson said. “He wanted to start an academy team — a U-23 team — to eventually get more local players on Duluth FC. The idea was that it would become a pipeline to the big team. I approached him with the same idea because I had my son and a few other players who were all extremely good players at the high school level, but they weren’t going to play college soccer for various reasons.”

Duluth FC held tryouts for the academy team in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to grip the U.S. and canceled the season.

Earlier this year, the Duluth FC Academy team held a second round of tryouts, with both Schramm and Senich earning spots on the team that played in the Duluth Amateur Soccer League this summer.

Schramm believes his experience with the academy team will be a benefit when he begins playing at UWS in a few weeks.

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Drake Schramm, a forward with Duluth FC, seen before a game on Friday, July 30, 2021, at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. (Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune)

“What I like most about it is definitely getting to play with some of my future UWS teammates and getting some chemistry there,” Schramm said. “Also, this really helped me with the flow of the game. Playing with people who played in college or who are out of college, the game was much faster compared to high school. So just adjusting to the flow of the game I think is really going to help me in the future.”

Senich said he had an offer to play at a Division II school in Florida last season, but the offer didn't include a scholarship. Instead, he chose to continue taking classes at LSC and improve with the Ice Hawks’ squad and the academy team. Playing on the academy team has helped improve his distribution and calmness with the ball.

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“I get passed back to and I have to make a decision on whether I want to play a long ball or a short one and keep possession, and it’s come a lot easier now,” Senich said. “I get a lot of touches, and it’s really helped me control the pace of play.”

Magnuson said the goal for the academy team is to move up to the United Premier Soccer League, which has eight teams in Minnesota and a ninth in Fargo, North Dakota.

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Dru Senich, a goalkeeper with Duluth FC, throws the ball out of the box during a game on Friday, July 30, 2021, at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. (Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune)

In an exhibition game against Granite City FC in St. Cloud — a team that finished third in the Midwest Conference of the USPL’s spring season — the Duluth FC Academy team lost 4-3. Schramm and Senich both said the game was one of the best of the season.

Academy coach Otto Berti, who also coaches the Superior High School team, had nothing but praise for Schramm and Senich.

“Drake’s a great kid. He’s got that soccer IQ to be at that next level,” Berti said. “He’s a big boy, he’s physical and he doesn’t get pushed around a whole lot.”

Berti said Senich has the right attitude to be a successful goalie at the next level of soccer.

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Senich, a goalkeeper with Duluth FC, seen before a game on Friday, July 30, 2021, at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. (Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune)

“As a goalie, it’s tough,” Berti said. “You’ve got to have a short memory, and he does. He may let a goal in, but then he just kind of forgets about it and stays in the game and is still competitive at a high level.”

The Duluth FC Academy team finished second in the DASL regular season this summer and won its first tournament game over Green Machine 7-0. Next, they will play Portside FC in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, at Malosky Stadium in Duluth.

Related Topics: SOCCERCLOQUET
Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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