The Wisconsin women’s soccer team may have suffered an abrupt end to a promising season, but the shortcomings of the team haven’t deflected any attention to the quality season of the third-year midfielder. As the only unanimous selection to the all-conference team, Rose Lavelle once again showed the Big Ten why she is considered among the country’s elite players.
In the weeks since earning unanimous All-Big Ten honors, Lavelle has been named a semifinalist for NCAA’s player of the year, a first-team All American selection and member of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Coming into the season on the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list, which commemorates the best male and female soccer player in the NCAA, Lavelle managed to lead a depleted Wisconsin attack to an unlikely regular season conference crown, scoring seven goals and three assists along the way. In addition to her impressive stat line were the intangible benefits she brought to the team, including her ability to draw multiple defenders to the ball and maintain her spring speed while dribbling like few others can.
It was a campaign worthy of the first-team All American selection she earned last week from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, making her the first Wisconsin player to earn the honor since teammates Karen Maijala (forward) and Heather Taggart (goalkeeper) in 1991.
But the selections didn’t stop there for Lavelle. In the same week, she was named one of the 15 semifinalists for the Hermann Trophy, joining Penn State star forward Raquel Rodriguez as the only Big Ten players to earn the nomination. Lavelle again joins Taggart as the only Badgers to receive semifinalist nominations in the past 25 seasons. Taggart went on to finish runner up to Kristine Lilly, who became a legend for the U.S. national team over the course of 24 seasons and record-352 caps.
The next cut of nominees will occur on Dec. 11, which will leave three women left for consideration. If Lavelle were to advance, she would earn the chance to become the first woman in school history to walk away with the award.
Certainly helping her case for the honor will be her call up to the women’s national team. As a member of the squad’s last four stops in their Victory Tour, Lavelle will suit up for her first match Dec. 6 against Trinidad and Tobago at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Previously a member of the U-20 and U-23 national teams, Lavelle has already experienced success at the global level. Prior to her professional call-up, Lavelle’s greatest international moment came in in the spring of 2014, during the U-23 Four Nations Tournament against England, Sweden and Norway. As part of the starting 11, she scored the team’s first goal and later assisted the cup-winner in a dramatic 2-1 victory over England in the finals.
While it’s a fond memory for the Cincinnati native, Lavelle now looks ahead to the unprecedented challenge in playing against the world’s best. The pressure, pace and expectations that lie ahead of her are demands she hopes to quickly overcome in the weeks to follow.
“I’m very excited to be able to witness and learn from the players because I know their level of professionalism is something I’ve probably never experienced before,” Lavelle said.
With a mix of nerves and excitement for what lies ahead, Lavelle said playing with some of her childhood idols will be a surreal experience, namely legend Abby Wambach, who will play her last game as a professional at the tour’s end in New Orleans.
“I’ve grown up watching her,” Lavelle said. “It will be really exciting to be there to send her off in person. It still seems a little unreal that I’ll be there for that.”
Less than three years ago, the incoming freshman Lavelle was unsure whether Wisconsin head coach Paula Wilkins even wanted her on the team. Today, she plays alongside superstars Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian on one of the most dominant teams in the history of soccer.