01 Oct Goal Oriented – Columbia Metropolitan Magazine
Playing USC soccer gives players moments they will never forget. Choosing one favorite among so many is hard. For Hallie, it was playing Arkansas for the 2019 SEC Championship. “I left there realizing I’d just played the biggest game of my life, and it was the biggest win of my life,” she says. This game was also a favorite for Claire.
“The team really rallied. We hadn’t done as well against SEC opponents during the regular season, and one of our teammates, Tatumn Milazzo had torn her ACL. We hadn’t won the SEC championship in a few years, so we rallied around Tatumn, and we won.” For Lauren, it was the game against Clemson her sophomore year. “We played Clemson at Stone Stadium with a record 6,354 people in the stadium, plus crowds all along the fences outside,” she recalls. “I scored the winning goal, and to hear the roar of the crowd was just incredible. I’ll never forget it. To play in that kind of atmosphere was amazing.”
Team priorities divide neatly in the fall and spring seasons. In the fall, it is about winning games. After the thrill of competitive play, the spring brings time to develop individual players’ skills. “It is our job to make each player the best they can be,” says Shelley. Players who did not see as much field time during the competitive season get to play in the spring. Five days of play are allowed, when the Gamecocks might compete against two or three different colleges on the same day. Spring games are open to the public.
The USC women’s soccer team puts the same dedication and emphasis on their studies as they do their sport. The opportunity to have the best of both worlds is what drew Lauren to USC. “I liked that I didn’t have to settle when it came to academics or soccer. I was accepted to the Honors College, the nation’s top public honors college,” says Lauren, who is working on her master’s in business administration. “I could excel in the classroom as well as compete for soccer championships year in and year out.”
Hallie’s goal is to be an orthopedic surgeon, and Claire wants to practice law and become an advocate for children. These three are not the only players who excel in the classroom. Every year the women’s soccer team boasts a long list of SEC Academic Honor Roll recipients. This past year, the team had an astounding grade point average of 3.8. Shelley says, “Our players do a tremendous job representing the university, both on the field and in the classroom.”
In addition to playing soccer and concentrating on their studies, the players find time to give back. Shelley is proud of the way her team members serve the community. “They are wonderful role models and do a great job connecting with the local youth players at our camps and clinics,” she says. The women’s soccer team hosts a number of camps each year, and the players help. Youth camps include both day camps and residential camps. “Residential camp is always a lot of fun — they stay in the honors dorm with us,” says Claire.
ID camps are held for prospective players. Hallie loves watching the new possible recruits. At times, Claire has to know her limits and get out of the way. “I’m 5 foot 2 and was playing goalie with the kids. I was thinking, I’m not putting my hand in the way of that shot! They were blasting them in there,” she says with a laugh. Hallie agrees that camps are a lot of fun, but working with campers is also a lot of responsibility. “When we’re working with the younger kids, these girls look up to you and watch what you do and ask for your autograph,” she says. “It’s surreal that what you’re doing is bigger than you and bigger than the university — I’m at a loss for words to express it. It requires that I be the best I can be on and off the field. It’s pressure, but to me it’s so encouraging and uplifting.”
Clearly, the USC women’s soccer players take all their responsibilities very seriously but have fun doing it all, as a team and as a family. “It is rewarding to see them enjoy and not regret all the time they spend practicing and playing soccer,” says Shelley. “With each success comes higher expectations. They’ve come a long way and can compete with the best in the league.”
On behalf of her soccer family, Lauren has a message for their fans: “We are really excited to have people back at Stone Stadium. Tell the fans we missed them this past season. They give us an edge that helps us win.”
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