MADISON, Wis. — 11:52 p.m. Dec. 31, 2012. That’s the last time University of Wisconsin soccer star Rose Lavelle last drank Dr. Pepper, one of her favorite soda choices. She jokingly says the reason for that decision was for fear of a soda consumption relapse, but it’s that kind of mental fortitude that makes Lavelle one of the most disciplined and talented players in the nation.
Entering her senior season as a Badger, Lavelle landed on the Big Ten Preseason Honors list, earned a spot on the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list, and was ranked the No. 1 player in the country by Top Drawer Soccer. But she’s not concerned about honors or rankings when she looks back at her career at the UW.
“Probably my biggest thing is just laying it on the line every game and making sure I’m walking off the field knowing that I put everything out there,” Lavelle told the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network. “Honestly, as long as I do that, I can’t be mad at myself.”
Her love of soccer stems from the relationships she built as a young girl in Cincinnati. Lavelle recalled her first trainer, Neil Bradford, who worked with her for roughly six years starting at eight years old. She credits Bradford with making soccer something she wanted to pursue as she got older, taking those talents to the University of Wisconsin and several United States national teams.
Sadly, Bradford passed away on Aug. 28 after colon cancer reappeared just a few months ago. He was originally diagnosed in March of 2010 and given a clean bill of health in 2012. Lavelle will be dedicating her 2016 season to his memory.
Upon learning of Bradford’s death, Lavelle honored the late soccer guru by donning his former No. 8 in a Sept. 1 game against Stanford instead of her well-revered No. 3 kit. Unfortunately, the Badgers would lose that contest 2-1.
On Sept. 9, Wisconsin women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins recorded her 100th win as head of the program, but instead gave credit to all the players she’s had the chance to work with. That includes Lavelle, who would tell you her relationship with Wilkins is one of the closest she’s had with anyone. But it was a relationship she wasn’t sure would work out when the two first met in 2011 as part of the United States Soccer Olympic Development Program.
“She was my regional coach for ODP and we had gone on an international trip to Holland together with the regional team and I really, really liked her there. Both as a coach and a person. Afterwards, I contacted her and I was actually really, really nervous to contact her because I thought she wouldn’t want me. Basically she was the reason I visited, and a big reason of why I came here. She had confidence in me when I think no one else did and just saw something in me that a lot of people just didn’t see.”
Lavelle hopes that relationship will continue once she’s done at Wisconsin, willing to take any advice Wilkins is able to provide while still focusing on her job with the remaining members of the Badger program.
At the conclusion of the 2016 season, Lavelle will be entering the National Women’s Soccer League Draft, where she’s ranked as the top midfielder in the 2017 class. Some scouting services have Lavelle listed as the best available overall, but a lot depends on her performance in her senior season at Wisconsin because there’s no combine to test players’ skills and abilities.
In seven games so far this season, Lavelle has registered one assist and zero goals on 27 shots, but her 2015 honors may be enough anyway, being named the Big Ten’s Midfielder of the Year. As her time winds down at Wisconsin, she’s making the most of each moment.
The NWSL Draft will be held in Los Angeles Jan. 11-15 with the draft order determined by the results of the 2016 season.