New Hires, New Signings and a New Mascot Help Kick Off the 24th Season for the California Storm
Published May 11, 2022
Written By:  Katie Parker
             West Region Contributor



Seven conference titles, a league-record three National Championships and a successful 2021, the California Storm aim to keep the momentum going for their 24th season.

As founding members of the league, the Storm and division opponent, the San Francisco Nighthawks, are the only two clubs that have been around since the beginning. They both play in the Northern Division of the Pac North Conference in the WPSL’s West Region.  

The Storm finished the 2021 season with an impressive 8-1-1 record. The draw was to eventual conference champions, Lamorinda United (9-0-1), and the loss came in the final match of the season to the aforementioned Nighthawks (6-4-0).

Even though things didn’t end on a high note, last season was a successful one for the Storm and that was reflected in the Best of the WPSL honors. Storm goalkeeper Abbie Faingold was awarded the Pac North Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year; she’s now playing professionally in France. Janae Gonzalez nabbed the Offensive Player of the Year award. She joined the team after playing professionally in Mexico and will be back on the pitch this season for the Storm. 

California Storm’s Executive Director Jamie Howard-Levoy and Lamorinda United’s Head Coach and Technical Director, Mohammed Mohammed, shared the recognition of 2021 Pac North Coach of the Year. 

When reflecting on the club’s 24th season in the league Levoy said, “It's incredible to think that the team has been around for 24 years. So many incredible players have come through this team so it is an honor for me to be leading the club. I get to work with some of the most amazing women. It really feels like a dream. I can't even call it work, it's a passion.”

Levoy has been involved with the Storm for 12 of the club’s 24 seasons, taking the reigns as head coach and executive director in 2019 after WPSL founder and former California Storm owner Jerry Zanelli left the team to her upon his passing. 

The California Storm held its first round of tryouts in mid-April and Coach Levoy is happy with how the roster is shaping up. 

“We have a diverse group of returners and new players. It's going to be a very competitive season. Our average age will be younger than it had been in the past,” Levoy said. “This [season] is also the first time since the pandemic [began] that we are able to host players from overseas thanks to some great host families.

Kendall Johnson is one exciting new signing for the Storm. She’s a former Portland Thorns player and, in addition to suiting up for the side, will also serve as the team’s nutrition mentor. 

One of the most significant unknowns is who will be guarding the net when the season kicks off. Faingold is the second Storm goalkeeper in two years to sign a professional contract. Storm’s Katelin Talbert was the Pac North’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and is now tending goal professionally in Portugal. 

“It's hard to lose these great athletes but we love to create a pathway for them to reach their dreams,” Levoy said. “We have a couple of new [goalkeepers] coming in and have another round of tryouts on May 15th, but I am confident we will continue to be strong in that position.” 

One reason for that assuredness may be the confidence placed in new Goalkeeper Coach Jenny Lawrence. She was a standout goalie at California State University, Sacramento before joining the coaching staff there, then moving on to the coaching staff at Portland State University. She’s now preparing to make an immediate impact with the Storm this season.

Chris Malenab is another new hire who brings over 20 years of coaching experience to the Storm. For the past eight years, he’s coached for multiple United Soccer League (USL) teams including Sacramento Republic FC, Reno 1868 FC and Oakland Roots SC. He’s also a strong advocate for mental health awareness, which will serve the players well as the season progresses.   

And yet another new addition you’ll see at home matches is the Storm’s first-ever mascot, Sparky

Of the lightning bolt-shaped character, Levoy said, “I'm not sure what ‘sparked’ the idea, but we are constantly working on new ideas to take the organization to the next level. We like surprising the players.”

A positive club culture and unwavering community support produce an encouraging place to play in Northern California, the effect of which is seen in the team's chemistry on the pitch. With an impressive roster of alumnae, which we’ll get to in a minute, it’s no secret that the potential impact the club has on its players is far-reaching, but something that can sometimes get overlooked is the impact all the players have on young fans. 


“When you have girls that are wearing Storm jerseys, getting autographs and pictures with the players, it really gets me emotional,” Levoy said. “As a player growing up, I never had access to female athletes [and] role models. This is so important for future generations. Seeing is believing.”    

The Storm boasts an ever-growing list of phenomenal alumnae including World Cup Champions Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and Alex Morgan, former U.S. National Team member and Olympic bronze medalist Leslie Osborne, former Brazilian Women’s National Team player and 1999 Women’s World Cup Golden Boot winner Sisleide do Amor Lima (Sissi) and current NWSL NJ/NY Gotham FC player ​​Jennifer Cudjoe. Sissi, Osborne and Chastain are now on the Storm’s Board of Directors. This list will undoubtedly continue to grow as the Storm do everything they can to help players reach the next level. 

The California Storm kick off the season on the road against FC Davis Wednesday, June 1 at 7 pm - a matchup known locally as the Causeway Clasico. The Storm host new WPSL club Napa Valley 1839 in their home opener on June 4 at 7 pm, and then close out its regular season at home in a second meeting with FC Davis July 6.

The Storm face fellow league-veterans, the San Francisco Nighthawks, June 12 on the road in SF. The midseason match will be the second of a back-to-back for each side

You can watch live matches on  Eleven Sports, the official streaming partner of the WPSL.