Number one pick Lavelle ready for next challenge

With the departure of Rose Lavelle (#3, center), Wisconsin's freshman class has stepped up to open the season.

Image By: Brandon Moe

Getting to Harrison, New Jersey may not be what most people would consider as a huge step in their career. A suburb of Newark that has a population almost 25,000 less than the total enrollment at UW, this town is most famous for being the home of the New York Red Bulls, a professional soccer team that plays in the MLS.

Last Saturday, Rose Lavelle earned her first cap, or appearance, for the US women’s national team in Red Bull Arena in a 1-0 loss to England. The former Wisconsin standout previously trained with the youth national teams, and first trained for the full national team in December 2015.

In a career that has taken her from Cincinnati, to Madison, to Spain, to Charlottesville, and now to Harrison, Rose Lavelle still remembers the first goal she ever scored.

“I was five and playing for a YMCA team,” Lavelle said. “It was an awful goal. I just toe-poked it in from the endline, but I was trying to hide my smile the whole time. That’s what I remember the most: trying to not show anyone I was happy.”

From then, Lavelle started her career in her hometown of Cincinnati, playing at Sycamore United and later progressing to play with Cincinnati United Premier Soccer Club. Playing up an age group since the age of nine, Lavelle started thinking about playing in college in eighth grade.

“It [was] early, but people on my team were freshmen and sophomores, so I started thinking about [college soccer] because of that,” Lavelle said.

Lavelle was a standout at her high school, Mount Notre Dame, playing for the varsity team for all four years. She came to Madison in 2013 and quickly became a fixture in the midfield, starting her first 19 games and winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors as well as being named to First-Team All-Big Ten.

Lavelle’s performances caught the eye of the national team, and she earned call-ups to the youth national teams. While she played well, even scoring a goal in the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup against China, she learned a lot from her experience with the national team.

“The speed of play was a big adjustment, and it definitely helped me [perform better] coming back to college,” Rose Lavelle said.

Additionally, her routine for nutrition and recovery improved at the camps, helping her continue her good performance in college.

After winning the Big Ten Tournament in 2014, which was Lavelle’s favorite memory from college, and winning the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year award twice in a row in 2015 and 2016, Lavelle entered the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft following her senior year. She was drafted first overall by the Boston Breakers, becoming the first Badger in any sport to be the number one pick.

“What drew us to pick her at number one was the way she could beat a player and turn defense into offense by herself,” Boston Breakers head coach Matt Beard said.

Beard, who coached in England for the Chelsea Ladies team and the Liverpool Ladies team, said that Lavelle would be a perfect fit for their system thanks to her ability to score goals from the midfield and her versatility.

“Playing [for Wisconsin last season] in more of a defensive role gave her a good education as a midfield player,” Beard said. “Knowing when to press, when to cover, and when to drop in are crucial, and it gives us more flexibility in the midfield.”

Beard is a big believer in Lavelle.

“I don’t see any reason why she can’t cement herself as a regular international player,” Beard said. While he understands it’s a big transition from college soccer to professional soccer, Beard believes Lavelle’s experience with the national team will help her become a key starter for the Breakers this season.

Lavelle’s transition from Madison to Boston will be made easier by the chemistry with her fellow rookies Morgan Andrews (USC), Ifeoma Onumonu (Cal), Margaret Purce (Harvard), and Sammy Jo Prudhomme (USC). Rose knew all of her new teammates from camps, but they all met together for the first time at the 2017 NWSL Draft.

“We’re all really excited for the next season,” Lavelle said.

The Boston Breakers season kicks off April 16 in Kansas City, where they will play FC Kansas City. Wherever Lavelle’s career takes her, she’ll always remember her teammates and coaches from her time with the Badgers.

“[Their relationship] will be something I couldn’t find anywhere else. We’re so close and have such a family environment,” Lavelle said. “This definitely won’t be the last time I see them.”

And after Lavelle’s performance in her first cap, it probably won't be the last time she’s seen in a U.S. jersey either.

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