FARGO-For the first time, a high-level women's soccer team is calling Fargo home.
The Dakota Fusion FC is part of the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL), which is the largest women's soccer league in the world with more than 100 teams. Teams consist of athletes from the collegiate, post-collegiate, international and prep levels.
Former Minnesota State Moorhead women's head soccer coach Rollie Bulock is the team's administrator. He retired from MSUM in 2015, after 17 years of being its head coach, but was not done with the game of soccer. In the summer of 2016, the three-time Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference coach of the year was an assistant for the men's Dakota Fusion FC in its first season of existence.
According to Bulock, one reason the men's team formed in 2016 was to provide the opportunity to play soccer at a higher level. Now, two years later, the women's team is established to serve the same purpose.
"I think college players should take advantage of this opportunity," Bulock said. "It provides them a training regiment, the ability to maintain their touch over the summer and include fitness, so they can come back better in the fall to their teams."
Jamestown's assistant women's soccer coach and former Fusion FC men's player Jack Hartley is the head coach of the women's Fusion team. He was brought on by Bulock and the organization due to his history with the game and ability to communicate on the field.
Hartley is excited to be at the head of the women's Fusion FC.
"It's a great opportunity for me, for the town," Hartley said. "It's the first team of this type to be in this area. It's a great opportunity, and I'm going to learn a lot from it."
The Fusion will play a 10-game regular season against only conference opponents that started on May 25 and ends July 1. Dakota FC is in the WPSL's North Conference of the Central Region, along with the Chicago Red Stars Reserves, Fire SC 98, Chicago City SC, Minnesota TwinStars and Milwaukee Torrent.
Currently, the Fusion sit at 0-5 overall in last place. One of their losses, an 8-0 shutout, was to the Red Stars Reserves, the official amateur team to the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer League.
Hartley said it was a good opportunity for his team to face athletes of that caliber.
"It's a great experience for the girls to challenge themselves against players of that caliber," Hartley said.
MSUM senior defender Kylee Billings was surprised to see Chicago's level of players.
"It was a shock at first," Billings said. "They're pulling from a bigger area where they have the talent, where we're pulling from the Fargo-Moorhead area."
On Saturday, the Fusion faced the Red Stars Reserves again in the team's home opener at Moorhead high school's Jim Gotta Stadium.
The Fusion were more competitive this time, but ended up falling 2-0 to the Red Stars Reserves.
The goal for Hartley is not in the number of victories, but rather in laying the foundation for the team's future. He is trying to get a feel of what the league is like, along with figuring out the standard of his own team.
"I don't really have expectations in terms of wins, losses," Hartley said. "I'm just hoping to start something that will continue for years to come."