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Playing the Field: Rose Lavelle

UW midfielder Rose Lavelle is turning heads with her creative approach to the game

Jul. 9, 2015
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Photo credit: David Stluka/Wisconsin Athletic Communications
In Playing the Field, we profile women who are making an impact in the world of sports, either in competition or behind the scenes. For this installment, we spoke with University of Wisconsin soccer star Rose Lavelle.

Now that Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and the rest of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) have reached the pinnacle of the sport, speculation has already started about what the team will look like when they defend their crown in France in 2019.

A player on many people’s radar is University of Wisconsin’s own Rose Lavelle.

One of five finalists for the 2014 U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year (an award won by current senior national team player Morgan Brian), Lavelle has made a mark with both the U-20 and U-23 national team squads. She was MVP of the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, the United States’ governing body for soccer) Women’s U-20 Championship where she helped the US qualify for the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup, where she played every minute. Lavelle had a goal and three assists in the 2015 Four Nations Tournament that the U-23 recently won.

With Wisconsin, she led the team her sophomore year with 10 assists and was First Team All-Big Ten. She was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in her opening campaign.

Local folks that were swept up by the World Cup this summer who are looking for more women’s soccer to support could do worse than following the Badgers. After a disappointing 2013 season that included losing five of the final seven games of the year, Lavelle said she and her teammates were determined to have a better 2014 season. Their determination paid off: The Badgers were 16-2-2 in the regular season and won the Big Ten Tournament and were a four seed in the NCAA post-season tournament.

“We knew we didn’t want to have another season like that and that we couldn’t afford to,” said Lavelle. “Spring of 2014 we buckled down as a team and we really took it seriously. We made up our team values and wrote down what we wanted our goals to be for the fall. And then really, every practice and every spring game we had we really emphasized that everyone knew we were working for something and that it’s not for now, but for something in the future that we want to be able to change.

“This fall everyone came in and we were all in shape and we were all on the same page which was really nice and a huge change from the year before,” Lavelle continued. “Every time we stepped on the field, we knew we wanted to win the Big Ten. That was our main goal that we’d made in the spring. It was just about making sure we stayed focused and staying on the same page. We had really good team chemistry. We went through the season and we only lost two games and we were really doing well. Obviously winning the Big Ten gave us a lot of confidence going into NCAAs. It didn’t really end how we would have liked, but it was definitely a year we can look back and show how our hard work paid off.”

But it wasn’t just about a single-season turnaround, Lavelle said. She and her teammates are working to create a culture of success and winning at Wisconsin.

“We don’t want to be a team that has one good year and that’s it,” she said. “We want to build a program, not just one team. We want to be able to have our success carry on through the years and not just be a one and done team. So that’s going to be our big focus going into this fall. Can we match the success we had last year?”

Wisconsin lists Lavelle as a forward/midfielder and the national team has described her as a two-way midfielder. Lavelle herself was too modest to really describe her game, though she used the word “creative” over and over again. A playmaker in the midfield, she has the attacking instincts to create chances up front while also serving as a strong line of defense in transition. She said that she’d happily play wherever her coach and team need her, but does like the freedom and space that come with people in the midfield, allowing her room to make plays with the ball.

Lavelle is spending her summer in training with the U-23 national team. Her consistent call-ups to participate in the national program have given Lavelle the poise and composure to help lead Wisconsin, despite being just a sophomore during their post-season run last year. Having played with one national team or another since her senior year of high school has also helped Lavelle prepare for the transition to college and prepare her for the change in speed of play and talent level of her competitors.

“I think international experience gives you a lot of confidence going back in to college and you feel like if I can compete at this level, I can compete well at the college level as well,” she said. “Coming back from camps just gives me a lot of confidence and just makes me feel like I can become more a leader. I hope to bring it back and use it to help the team do well. It’s not like I”m a huge leader on Wisconsin. I think the biggest thing is that it gives me more confidence to know that if I can compete well at the international level, then I can do well at the collegiate level.”

The 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup was a major turning point and learning experience for Lavelle. The United States lost their quarterfinal match to Korea DPR and the team, and their coach Michelle French, took a lot of heat for what many called a disappointing finish.

Lavelle said the loss left her feeling guilty. “At the time, I didn’t really take a lot of positives away from it because I felt so guilty about it,” she said. “I was so absorbed and so focused on the things I’d done wrong, that I didn’t really consider any of the things I had done right. Looking back, even the struggle I had after, it made me a stronger player and person, so I’m very grateful for what it’s done for me.”

In addition to the personal growth, Lavelle said she learned a lot about what it means to be in the press and how stories and narratives were written. Though she says she thought she knew what that level of interest and attention would bring, she found herself upset and defensive as the team and coach were picked apart by press who weren’t privy to much insight to their team and its dynamics. It was an important moment for Lavelle, who related it to backlash about whether or not Landon Donovan should have been on the men’s national team roster for Brazil 2014 or whether Alex Morgan should have seen more playing time in Canada recently.

After the lead-up, pressure and subsequent disappointment at the U-20 World Cup, Lavelle is taking a very Zen approach to her future with the national team.

“Right now I’m with the U-23s,” she said. “In terms of the full team, I have no idea. There’s a lot of really good midfielders. I have no idea what the path will be. I’m just trying my best to work on the things that I knew I need to work on and hope that my hard work pays off. I know there’s a lot of very, very good midfielders that are also in contention for getting called up. I’m not too focused on what’s next. I’m trying to be in the now. I did that with the U-20s, I focused on one thing for two years, which was the World Cup, so now I’m just trying to keep myself being in the present instead of always focusing on what’s in the future.”

The Badgers open their 2015 schedule on Aug. 13 against Marquette in Madison. They will play in Milwaukee on Sept. 11 when they face UWM.

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