Wrapped up in enough clothes to be prepared for a winter apocalypse, Rose Lavelle hardly looked like a soccer player after a dreary and chilly practice last Wednesday afternoon. But tucked under several jackets and hoods was the face of the bright-eyed freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio, a face that could very well represent what the future holds for the Wisconsin women’s soccer program.
“In my time in coaching, she has probably been one of the better freshman that I’ve had just for the attributes that she brings,” Wisconsin head coach Paula Wilkins said. “It’s a little bit special, in terms of the quickness on the ball and her ability to beat people off the dribble.”
However, it’s not just Lavelle’s talent that has turned the heads of those around her, as she also has one of the quirkier personalities on the team; just ask her roommate, freshman goalkeeper Meghan Ledin.
“She is literally obsessed with bulldogs. If I have to throw that in there, it’s important to her that everyone knows that,” Ledin said.
Lavelle, too, accepts her role as jokester, something Ledin said has helped lighten the mood and kept the team at an even keel.
“The team voted me and Meghan … basically they said me and Meghan were really funny. That’s probably the proudest accomplishment I have so far,” Lavelle said of her unofficial position as class clown.
When the time comes, though, Lavelle knows when to save the jokes and focus her energy on the sport that got her recognized by Wilkins when she was only a sophomore in high school playing for the Olympic Development Program.
Before that summer even rolled around, Lavelle had already been looking at colleges to take her soccer talents, and had actually taken her first college visit as a freshman at Mount Notre Dame High School. Playing a level up throughout much of her youth career, Lavelle was surrounded by people older than she was, leading her to think about playing college soccer as early as eighth grade.
So by the time Lavelle was playing under Wilkins, who was one of her coaches in the Olympic Development Program, future soccer opportunities were certainly on Lavelle’s mind.
Lavelle took advantage of the opportunity with the development program and left Wilkins impressed.
“I coached her when she was younger in the ODP program and I really liked her and I thought that she was a beaming personality,” Wilkins said. “But also her quickness on the ball and her technical ability on the ball was something that many other kids didn’t have at that age.”
After showcasing her ability to Wilkins on a trip to Holland with the program, Lavelle decided to email the Badgers’ coach to express her interest, which led to Lavelle visiting Wisconsin for one of her multitude of college visits.
But the visit to Wisconsin turned out much differently than the other schools, which included Notre Dame, Florida and South Carolina.
“I came and visited basically because of [Wilkins,] and I loved everything about it,” Lavelle said. “I loved campus. I loved the sports. And I remember I was walking down State Street at night and I realized, ‘I want to go here.’”
Following the visit to Wisconsin, Lavelle chose to commit to Wilkins and the Badgers as a junior in high school, but despite committing so soon, she continued to make strides in her soccer abilities. It all culminated in her senior year when Lavelle was named the Cincinnati Player of the Year by the Cincinnati Enquirer along with the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Sports Woman of the Year after scoring 15 goals and tallying eight assists. With 15 goals in her senior year, Lavelle also set her school’s all-time goal-scoring record.
Even with such a prolific high school career, it was no given that Lavelle was going to start right away when she came to Wisconsin.
But with her continued work during high school and her refined technical and one-on-one talents, Lavelle has earned the privilege of starting every game so far for the Badgers.
“I knew she was going to have the ability to impact right away, but the good thing is over the years after she committed, she kept developing as a player. A credit to her is that she kept working on her development to come in here and make the impact that she has,” Wilkins said.
So far in her time with the Badgers, Lavelle has started all 15 games and, more notably, has been a critical part of the Wisconsin offense in helping the Badgers to a 9-4-2 overall record. Lavelle has six goals and six assists, the most important of those being the latest goal Sunday afternoon at McClimon, which proved to be the game winner for Wisconsin in its 2-1 win over Iowa. That game-winner for Lavelle was the first in her career, and could be the first of many from the potential she has shown so far.
Although Wilkins thought Lavelle would have higher statistics at this point in the season, she has been marked — twice by two All-Big Ten players — which has put some stress on her, according to Wilkins.
But the fact that Lavelle has been marked, and by some of the better players in the conference, is a testament to the ability she has to score.
From what she has displayed so far, it would appear that even brighter days are on the horizon for Lavelle, who has the potential to not only be a very special person once she emerges from her proverbial shell, according to Ledin, but also a very special player.
And it’s not just talent, but love for the game that could break her out of that shell.
“I just think it’s her love for the game because in our room, she’s always watching film. She watches other teams play even if we’re never really going to play them in our conference. She just watches a ton of soccer all the time,” Ledin said. “That’s something I notice about her. She never gets bored with [soccer] at all.”