The versatile senior “changes the game more than any player I have ever coached in my 11 years of coaching at Haverford,” said Fords’ girls soccer head coach Jeff Jackson. She has tallied 14 goals (as of Monday), including a hat trick on Senior Night. Last fall, she was a first team All-Central League, All-Main Line and All-Delco selection for soccer. Off the pitch, she will be entering her fourth year on the Fords’ varsity basketball team and earned second team All-Main Line honors last winter. “She is a tremendous leader for her teammates, and probably the best athlete in our school,” said Jackson.
Q: You’ve performed many roles, and played many positions skillfully, for Haverford this fall. Tell us a little about your start in soccer, and what sparked your inaugural interest in the sport. What position(s) did you originally play?
A: I started playing intermural soccer when I was about 5 years old and then went on to play travel soccer for Haverford Soccer Club when I was 8 years old. My parents grew up in Europe (Ireland and Norway) and were always interested in soccer, so they encouraged me to get involved. At a young age, I played every position from goalie to striker but have now settled into more of an attacking midfield role where I find myself most valuable because I am more connected to the defense and forwards.
Q: What is your sharpest memory of this season to date?
A: My winning overtime goal off of a corner during the Springfield game was exciting because it led an instant victory. As our center back lined up to take the corner, I called back post or “back net” as we call it on my team. The ball soared in and I volleyed it with the inside of my left foot right under the crossbar, leading to a victorious celebration with my teammates.
Q: As a versatile senior who performs many roles for the Fords, how do you see your leadership role on the team? Can you share with us an example of where you exercised that leadership?
A: Often times, our games and practices are right after school which can make it difficult to have a good, intense practice. I try my best to bring up energy levels in the midfield and at practices by working hard and encouraging those around me to do the same.
Q: Who have been your biggest soccer mentors, and what was the most important thing you learned from each of them?
A: All of my coaches throughout the years have taught me all I know about the game. My Dad and Coach Danny Boyle helped me work on all of the basic technical footwork, ball control, and positioning at Haverford Soccer Club. When I moved to 1776 United, my Coach, Sam Griggs, increased my soccer IQ and taught me that effort alone can make you a team nobody wants to play against. And of course, my coaches at Haverford High School have also made an impact on my soccer career. Coach Hill, turning me from a shy freshman into a leader and Coach Jackson teaching me that simplifying and outworking is all you need to be successful. I have also learned a lot from my basketball coaches that is applicable to soccer.
Q: What do you think is the strongest aspect of your game? What part of your game are you working on the most currently?
A: I think the strongest aspect of my game is my ability to attack and create chances for my team. I can turn a scrappy play in midfield into a scoring opportunity very quickly. As an attack-minded player, I am constantly trying to improve my skills (step-overs, turns, etc.) to beat defenders.
Q: Tell us a little about your pre-game preparation the day of a game.
A: On game day I try to get psyched by listening to music and jumping around and singing so I can get my energy up.
Q: Who is your favorite soccer player, and why?
A: My favorite player is Lionel Messi because he exhibits an insane amount of skill and is always very composed on the pitch.
Q: What do you think you might like to major in at college?
A: I plan to major in engineering.
Q: What extracurricular activities do you participate in at Haverford other than soccer and basketball?
A: I have participated in both Spanish Club and Best Buddies.
Fun facts – Annalena O’Reilly
Favorite book: The Girl on the Train.
Favorite author: Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games series).
Favorite TV show: Ozark.
Favorite movie: Mission Impossible movies.
Favorite athlete: Carson Wentz.
Favorite pre-game pump-up song: Guatemala by Rae Sremmurd.
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles.
Favorite place to visit: Norway and Ireland.
Favorite pre-game meal: Baked ziti.
Person I most admire: “My mom because she always puts others first.”
Family members: parents Aiden and Gro, brother Sean-Erik.
(To be selected as Main Line Girls Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by her coach.)
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