Rose Lavelle interview: Between the field and the floor – U.S. gem’s perfect storm

Photo: Leonard Cederholm
Photo: Leonard Cederholm

Rose Lavelle’s career may still be to unfurl but the prodigiously promising U.S. Under-23 midfielder has already shown flashes of an unpredictability that makes the field a dancefloor for the Wisconsin junior.

In women’s soccer circles, the name of Rose Lavelle has started to circulate more and more, as people have grown increasingly intrigued and excited by the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year’s vast potential. Last year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada saw her play every minute of her team’s tournament before the U.S. exited the competition at the quarter-final to North Korea on penalties.

That was a particularly sobering experience for Rose and her teammates and it certainly took the agile left-footer some time to put the hurt to one side. During the tournament, she had scored her first international goal at Under-20 level and earlier this year she played a principle role in the Under-23s’ triumph at the Four Nations Tournament in Norway.

On the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List for 2015, the Cincinnati 20-year-old is regarded as one of the brightest lights in college soccer and was named the number two player in the country in TopDrawerSoccer’s preseason rankings. Representing the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Rose has started her junior year in good form for the Badgers, coming up with five goals and three assists.

As well as her ability on the field, she is also known for a love of dancing and it is in keeping with the character she is. A leading creative outlet for her team, dance is something of a metaphor for the grace with which she plays.

You can be pretty much guaranteed to find the Badgers’ number three bringing out some moves behind the scenes as UW prepare to step out of the locker room on game day, even if it may not always be balletic!

“I let loose for sure,” she explained. “I don’t like to sit around and think about (the game) too much; that’s when I get nervous.”

“With the National Team – the U-20s – me and my friend Katelyn (Rowland) – she plays for FC Kansas City now as the goalie – we were dancing machines. So was Midge (Margaret) Purce – she goes to Harvard.

“Midge was really good at it. I would give myself MVP, but I’m obviously a little biased towards my own dance moves.

“At Wisconsin, it’s a lot of just me and McKenna Meuer. We try to get people going, but our dance moves just aren’t that inspiring to some people.”

At the 2014 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship – which serves as a qualifying tournament for the World Cup – Rose was awarded the Golden Ball as the competition’s standout player. It is perhaps testament to her captivating play that she didn’t need to rack up goals or assists to win the accolade, and she was a finalist for the 2014 U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year.

With a way of switching direction that makes her elusive to opponents, Rose has a love of pranks which can mean she is just as tough to keep track of when she is not playing. Her dance interest extended to taking a course in ballroom, but on the music side, does that take up a significant role in her life?

“In a sense of listening to it, I guess it does. I like listening to music a lot actually, and singing it whenever I’m in the car with people.

“I don’t have specific artists that I’m really, really into, but I really like listening to country and then kind of pop music. I love Lady Gaga.

“That’s probably the only artist that I really, really like that much, but I haven’t gone to any of her concerts. I think that’d be cool to, though.”

Back home in Ohio, Rose went to Mount Notre Dame High School and after scoring 15 goals and registering 38 points in her senior season The Cincinnati Enquirer named her Cincinnati Player of the Year. Finishing as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 57 goals, she was given NSCAA All-Region and First-Team All State recognition.

Rose is one of four siblings, along with her brother John and sisters Nora and Mary, and an unerring passion for Xavier University basketball runs within the family. A YouTube video shows a split-screen of Rose performing a soccer skill move as an 11-year-old and repeating it at 18, and she reveals some of her musical track from growing up in The ‘Nati.

“I think I was honestly past the CD era. My sister got a Britney Spears CD that we were pretty pumped about.

“I didn’t really get into country until high school, so I kind of in grade school just listened to mainstream stuff like the Top 40. I also like oldies, too.

“I kind of switch up my music a lot.”


Photo: Jack McLaughlin
Photo: Jack McLaughlin


The comfort Rose enjoys with the ball is one of the aspects of her game that has made a big impression on the likes of 1991 FIFA World Cup-winning captain and 2004 Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. coach April Heinrichs. The technical director for U.S. Women’s National Teams, who first saw her at a 2012 Olympic Development Program inter-regional camp in Florida, has spoken of how the senior side has not had a player quite like Rose before.

Rose’s coach connections within the National Team setup have also been the reason for a music memory, as she recalls.

“With the U-20s, I think it was when we were on our way to the quarter-finals and we got off the plane and we were waiting on the bus. The bus had a microphone, so people were enjoying doing freestyle and singing on that.

“That was very fun. Frenchie (Michelle French), the coach, actually sang some old rap.

“I can’t tell you what it was, but it was pretty impressive actually. That was a really great memory; it was really funny.”

In the last week of May this year, Rose had a big say in the Four Nations Tournament triumph for the U.S. in Norway. Assisting for Kayla Mills in the opening win over Sweden, she set up Arsenal’s Chioma Ubogagu in the 2-2 draw with the hosts in Sarpsborg.

She saved her most comprehensive contribution for the final as she opened the scoring and went on to set up Taylor Smith for the winner as England were beaten 2-1. It may not be true on the field, but with regard to picking out the tracks to set the mood for the team, it is more of a supporting act than a starring one for Rose at National Team level.

“I wasn’t the main DJ; I was kind of a side DJ. I was one that just kind of chimed in like, ‘You should play this one,’ or helped the girl out when she couldn’t think of a good song to put on, so that was kind of my role.

“Then, obviously, dancing to the music was my biggest role.”

Scoring Wisconsin’s first goal of the season against Western Michigan, Rose netted an overtime strike against North Dakota State two days later before making TopDrawerSoccer’s Team of the Week. Her next efforts to hit the mark were at UCLA and at home to Loyola-Chicago, and she scored and assisted for Steph Fabry last Sunday (October 11th) as the Badgers made it five wins in a row in a 3-0 victory at Nebraska.

With 13, Rose is the leader in points for a team that has kept it ultra-secure at the back of late with six consecutive shutouts, and she explains how she is also one who pitches in with the tunes.

“If we are all winding down, taking showers and cleaning up, usually Becca (Harrison) has that playlist and it’s a really good one. Then if we are getting pumped and ready to go, I’ll give that playlist a go.

“McKenna (Meuer) gives it a go, Meghan (Ledin), Micaela (Powers) – it’s really all over the place.”

Named on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, Rose scored six and assisted seven that year and will surely always remember her first career goal for the Badgers, which came at UConn in August 2013. She is someone who values her connection with people, although being the one to step up and mark a certain upcoming occasion for her peers may be taking it a step too far!

“My team right now is trying to convince me that I have to sing the national anthem on senior night. They think I have a good voice or something, I don’t know why, but that will not be happening.”

Whether Rose has a change of heart on that one or not, what is for sure is that she has enjoyed some great memories with her teammates in recent seasons. One of those is a senior midfielder with UW athletics running through her family and it is this Madison native who Rose would choose if she was to ever officially record a cover song (why not?!).

“My right-hand man would be McKenna Meuer and we would either sing ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child – because we can hit those notes – or we would sing ‘Gotta Go My Own Way’ from High School Musical 2, by Troy and Gabriella.”

The degree of exposure and suchlike is of course unrivalled at senior level, but any World Cup is subject to a huge amount of build-up for the teams participating. Along with her teammates, Rose represented her nation at the Under-20 tournament in 2014, scoring for the U.S. against China in the 3-0 group win.

Unfortunately, the Americans were to exit the competition at the last-eight stage, losing to North Korea in a penalty shootout. Following a 1-1 draw after extra-time, Savannah Jordan, Rose and Lindsey Horan did not convert their kicks and the pain felt as a group was particularly raw.

During the 2014 season, Rose led Wisconsin with ten assists and two of her three goals were game-winners. The Badgers were ultimately defeated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, losing out to the University of Central Florida.

In her sophomore year, Rose had been named on the NSCAA All-America second-team, although she admits that the disappointment she experienced in Canada with the U-20s lingered significantly. Taking the lessons learned forward with her, she feels enriched as a player from her time in various team surroundings.

“I know I’m very hard on myself, and almost to a fault. After the World Cup last year, I took a very long time to get over that and that kind of hurt my season for Wisconsin.

“I think I’ve just learned that I have to move on from things and I can’t dwell on what I did. I can’t focus on what I can’t do to fix what I did.

“I just have to focus on the next thing, rather than focusing on something that I can’t do anything about. I think I’ve gained a lot more confidence being in college and with all the teams that I’ve played for.

“I’ve just gotten to play with a lot of different players and it’s been fun getting to know their playing styles. I think that’s made me a better player; getting to play with so many different people and different coaches.”


Photo: Jack McLaughlin
Photo: Jack McLaughlin


First catching the eye of Wisconsin coach Paula Wilkins at a regional camp for Olympic Development Program hopefuls in DeKalb, Illinois in 2010, Rose always remembers one of her coaches in particular from when she was growing up. The Englishman Neil Bradford helped guide her as a kid and she recalls how the personal skill challenges he used to set were one of the reasons he made the game fun for her.

A desire to follow in the footsteps of the ones who have worked closely to develop her game over the years is in her thinking as she details her life away from being the collegiate and international athlete.

“When I’m not playing soccer, I’m usually with my family. My mom’s side has a huge family; she’s one of 12 siblings, so I have 40 cousins.

“It’s always really fun when I get to go home and spend time with them. My sisters and my cousin actually are my best friends.

“That’s always really fun and it’s kind of cool, because they don’t play soccer, so it’s a nice break away from soccer when I get to see them and hang out with them. I really just think after I’m done playing I’d like to coach.

“I really like sports; sports is my biggest thing. Not just soccer; I’m into sports and watching it and talking about sports.

“So, honestly anything involving sports I’d be content with.”

Playing in the summer for the Seattle Sounders in the W-League, Rose was named in TopDrawerSoccer’s Preseason Best XI First Team for collegiate players. The Wisconsin chapter is far from over, but she is already well aware of its impact on her and extremely appreciative for those who continue to share in the journey.

“The biggest thing is that I’ve loved the people I’ve played with and the people I’ve played for. I think I’ve just built really strong relationships here with the players – they’ve become my best friends – and my relationships with the coaches is something I don’t think I could’ve gotten anywhere else.

“I’m really grateful for that. I’ve said this before, but I’m a relationship-driven person.

“When I have something like that, I like to hold onto it because it’s a good thing to have.”

Amazingly, we have made it this far without mentioning Rose’s bulldog, Wilma, who has a huge bearing in her life. Soccer had Rose’s heart long ago and the former Cincinnati United youngster still potentially has it all ahead of her in the beautiful game. Maybe in the future she’ll suit up on pro teams alongside some of those she’s loved playing with already in her young career.

There are some of her former teammates she doesn’t know if she will ever get to play with again, but as we conclude here, for just a moment, she does. In the regular final part of the interviews on this site, the interviewee is asked to select four of those they have ever played with to go alongside them in a fantasy 5-a-side team.

As Rose thought hard trying to narrow it down she came up with a group she knows she can trust in.

“Obviously my best friend Katelyn (Rowland) for goalkeeper. We have a really good relationship off the field and that’s always good to have.

“I’ve played with her before; I’m comfortable having her back there. I know what she’s capable of and I know how good she is, so any opportunity to play with her again would be really fun.

“(Defender) Cari Roccaro – she was on the U-20s again, and I thought she didn’t get really a lot of credit during the World Cup, but I thought she was phenomenal. She’s someone that’s really difficult to beat, another person that I feel really comfortable playing with and really just a workhorse.

“Forward, I would pick Lindsey Horan. Another U-20 player – all three of them so far – but I just have really good relationships off the field and I think that just meshes well on the field as well.

“Lindsey on the field is really fun to play with. I feel like we get each other really well and we always know where each other is going to be.

“(Midfielder) I’m in between two. I’m in between Sunny (Andi) Sullivan – she was on my U-20s, too – she’s really, really good.

“Consistent, she can play anywhere, she’s so versatile and equally good everywhere on the field. She’s really awesome.

“I really love her and we get along really great off the field as well as on the field. The other is my friend that I played with when I was little and played throughout high school with – her name is Maggie Hare.

“She goes to Xavier. I would go juggle and then she would go beat my juggling record, then I would the next day beat hers.

“So we pushed each other, but on the field, I felt like we were two peas in a pod. I really enjoyed playing with her and I think it’d be fun to play with her again.”

To catch each of these interviews in future, you can follow me: @chris_brookes

You can also stay up-to-date by liking the site on Facebook