Korbin Albert, an attacking midfielder for Eclipse Select, was named the ECNL Girls U18/19 Player of the Year for her performances during the 2020-21 campaign, which saw her and her team crowned the U18/19 National Champions at the ECNL Girls National Playoffs in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Now a freshman attending the University of Notre Dame, Albert sat down with Breaking the Line podcast host Dean Linke to discuss her time in the ECNL, how she ended up at Notre Dame, and what the ECNL means to her. 

Dean Linke: Well, obviously the ECNL has been an important part of your life. How old were you when you started playing in the ECNL? And what was it like to close out your ECNL career with a national championship?

Korbin Albert: I started at 13, going on 14, with Eclipse. Before that, I played with multiple clubs, but started with Eclipse then. And when we won the national championship this past season, it was just an amazing experience. Our team worked so hard to get there and it took so many steps to get there. And once that happened, it was just an amazing experience.

DL: What do you remember about the national championship and the road your team had to take to get there?

KA: It was in Florida and our last three games were very tough. And we knew going into those games they were going to be tough and we just made sure that we just stuck to our game plan. We played hard and we tried to open up teams because they would play very compact against us. Our game plan was give-and-go’s, quick passes close together and that style of play led us to winning the national championship.

DL: Playing at Eclipse, you’re probably from the Chicago area. Is that where you also grew up? What do you remember about playing soccer early in life and what was your journey to the ECNL like?

KA: Growing up, I started playing at Evanston when I was a little kid. I was playing up about two or three years. My mom, she does private training, and she was always my coach. She trained me and we did everything together. Then I bounced around clubs, going from Evanston to FCB, and then from FCB, I went to Eclipse. I just played at those different clubs until I got to Eclipse. And Eclipse really took care of me and they made sure I got what I needed in terms of training and everything else.

DL: What about the Eclipse coaching staff? How did they make a difference in your development throughout the years?

KA: Yes, my coaches at Eclipse were Mike Nesci and Mark McElligott, and they were just amazing role models. They would always help us be the best players we could be. They made sure that we got to the next level, if that was playing with the Red Stars reserves team or college or wherever we wanted to go. And yeah, they were just amazing role models for all of us on the team. 

DL: This past year, you were good enough to be named the U18/19 ECNL Player of the Year and helped your team win a national championship. And throughout that, you were also probably going through the recruiting process. What can you share with us about that? How many different schools did you look at and how did you decide on Notre Dame?

KA: The very first time I was recruited, I was playing up a couple years. I don’t remember which showcase it was exactly, but I do remember it was one of my first tournaments playing at Eclipse. I remember playing my hardest and right after that, Notre Dame reached out to me. They told me they had been watching me for a long time, and I was just stunned by that. There weren’t many schools out there that I was interested in at the time, I just heard from Notre Dame, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. I want to go to that school right now.’ There were a few other schools I looked at. Penn State was one of them. I was going to visit Pepperdine, but I decided that it wasn’t for me. 

But what ultimately got me to commit to Notre Dame was just the family and community that it offered. I remember going to my first practice on my visit and all the girls were just so welcoming. And when they were practicing, it was such a friendly and team environment. They were all laughing together, having fun, and I just loved doing that too. And then once the coach blew the whistle, it was like, “Game time. Let’s get this done. Let’s work hard. Get this practice done and learn everything that we need to learn.” I was very motivated and that pushed me to commit to Notre Dame.

DL: Notre Dame is off to a great start this year and you’re off to a rocking start as well, with four goals and two assists. What was it like to score your first collegiate goal?

KA: I actually don’t remember much about my first goal. It just happened. I didn’t even realize it went in the back of the net. When I did, I was just stunned for a couple seconds. And then all my teammates came around me and celebrated with me. It was just amazing.

DL: How do you think the ECNL prepared you and your teammates to play at the next level?

KA: Being in such a competitive league really helped me develop and notice what I need to work on individually. And yes, practice is a time to work hard, and to be able to compete with your teammates. But also, it’s important that I go off and make sure I do individual work at the same time, that you’re doubling the amount of work that you’re doing so you can get better than the person next to you. Being in that competitive environment in the ECNL, there are people all across the country that are also doing extra work to get better. And just knowing that there are other people trying to get better than you, it just pushes you further to be better than the person next to you.

DL: Do you still talk with your ECNL teammates? When something like that happens, someone scoring their first goal, do you reach out to each other?

KA: Yeah, I still talk to many of them. I talk to Julia Simon, she’s on Louisville right now. And I talk to Ella Richardson, who I just played on Sunday. That was a really fun experience, since we had played with each other for so long. We are all very close. We Snapchat a lot. That’s the new thing, Snapchat. But yeah, we talk to each other, and we just keep updating each other on our lives.

DL: Finally, when you see or hear these four letters, ECNL, what does that mean to you?

KA: ECNL. To me, the “E” stands for “experience,” because I gained so much experience over the years. “C” would be “creativity,” since there’s so much creativity on every team and you just don’t know what’s coming next. “Never give up” for “N.” And then for “L,” for me, it stands for “love.” Love for your teammates and the game, and just showing respect to the other people around you.