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Looking back: Rose Lavelle earns CONCACAF title and Golden Ball


US Youth Soccer ODP and US Youth Soccer National League alum shines at next level

This article was originally published on on Jan. 24, 2014.

A popular thought among soccer coaches is that the game is the best teacher. Rose Lavelle provides truth to that theory.

The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team midfielder and 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year has displayed determination and endless effort to get to where she is at today. Her hard worked paid off on Jan. 19, as she helped the United States win the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship crown — earning the Golden Ball as Tournament MVP in the process.

That honor was a result of Lavelle taking advantage of every possible moment to have a ball at her feet while growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Along the way, she honed her skills against some of the nation’s top teams while playing in the US Youth Soccer National League as a member of CUP Gold 94/95 (OH-S), — formerly CUP Crew Jrs. Gold 94/95 — and she competed against some of the country’s top players while playing in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program.

“She’s one of those players where, if there was a game being played, she wanted to be there, whether it was a pick-up game or a National League game,” said Scott Rodgers, Executive Director at Cincinnati United and Lavelle’s former coach. “What makes it so special for Rose is the fact she’s a player who works extremely hard and has absolutely no ego. She just loves to play.”

Lavelle began playing soccer when she was 5, and her first competitive club merged with CUP when she was 13. For the next few years, she played up an age group. Even though she wasn’t a big physical player, Rodgers said Lavelle was able to play faster and think quicker while competing with the older girls.

For her final two years, she joined her regular age group to play on the CUP Gold 94/95 squad that competed in the National League. In addition to playing with CUP, she also gained experience as a member of US Youth Soccer ODP for much of her youth career.

“Before the National Team, [the National League] was the best competition I played against. The National League was some of the best competition I played against my whole life,” Lavelle said. “The same with ODP, going with the Regional teams to Interregionals, that was always the best competition. That definitely helped me.”

Lavelle said her coaches at CUP helped her navigate the college process, and the competition she faced while playing in the National League helped prepare her for the speed and physicality she’d face at the next level. That preparation translated to six goals and six assists in 19 starts as a freshman at Wisconsin — earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year and All-Big Ten honors along the way. 

However, those accolades weren’t just the result of steady play over the course of 19 collegiate games. They were earned through a tireless work ethic and willingness to put in the work to improve. 

Rodgers said even at a young age, Lavelle was always a very good technical player. However, she was overlooked for the early youth national teams. Instead of making excuses, the young midfielder just worked harder. Whether it was going to optional practices or just kicking a ball around in her backyard, Lavelle said she did whatever she could to improve.

“I was like, ‘Obviously, there are people better than me.’ I wanted to work to be able to get to their level and be the best that I could,” she said.

Her work ethic allowed her to take advantage of her opportunities, one of which was the chance to be a member of US Youth Soccer ODP.

“I did US Youth Soccer ODP for about seven years, and I always say that I think if I didn’t do it, I would not be where I am at today,” Lavelle said. “I think it helped me so much. When I went to Boca Raton for the Interregional, that’s where I got noticed. If I wasn’t doing ODP, I probably wouldn’t even be with the National Team at this point.”

Lavelle’s Golden Ball honor would suggest she’s fitting in well with the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team, although she admitted she was surprised to receive the award — and was quick to point out a couple teammates she thought would be deserving of the recognition.

Though she didn’t make a big impact in the box scores, Rodgers said he could see Lavelle’s technical and tactical skills while watching the CONCACAF Championships. He said her ability to control the ball and find where it needed to go, whether a safe pass to keep possession or an entry pass to put somebody into a dangerous position, stood out to him.

With the CONCACAF Championship title secured, Lavelle and the U.S. U-20 squad can look ahead to the 2014 U-20 World Cup in August. But before the team takes the field, expect Lavelle to use the next six months to find ways to make herself better; the same philosophy she has used to get to this point.

“She just kept working. She made herself stronger. She made herself better. She worked with the ball every day,” Rodgers said. “If there was a training session, she was there. Rose is a good story where somebody who really deserves it, works extremely hard and loves the game of soccer has made it to a high level.”