It helps me play better, knowing I have confidence from other people, not just myself. So that’s big, knowing Jill believes in me, the coaching staff believes in me. It has really helped me progress this year. I obviously have a lot to work on, but that’s really helped me.
What was your first experience with the national team?
They were my favorite team growing up. And I remember, I think it was 2003 World Cup, they lost to Germany — I think they lost really bad to Germany — and I was really upset. I went in my bunk bed and cried. My mom came up to check on me and I was like, I just want to be left alone. From a young age, I’ve been really invested in this team, cheering for them, wanting them to be successful. And then there came a point when I was younger and realized that this is where I wanted to be. And it’s so inspiring to have that team as role models to look up to. And I think that is a big part of what kept me pressing to get better.
You missed more than a month this summer with a leg injury. In your breakthrough year, how difficult was that for you?
It’s definitely disappointing. I felt like I was hitting my stride, feeling more and more comfortable with each game, both with the Breakers and the national team. But at the same time, I’m going to have highs and lows in my career. And I’ve had both of that this year, two different experiences to learn from. And I’ve picked up a lot of things I wouldn’t have if I’d been playing. So this has been a learning period for me. I’m not happy about it, of course, but I think I’ve gained a lot because the injury happened.
You’ve always had a cerebral approach to your game, but do you think because of that time off you are seeing different things now that you are near a return?
Definitely. Not even just on-the-field stuff. But an aspect that I didn’t really pay attention to that I’ve really been homing in on is the mental side of the game. I’ve been reading some sports psych books. And it’s something I wish I’d discovered earlier because I really think it would have helped me in college. And one of the things when you have an injury is, are you going to come back as strong as you left? And homing in on that mentality is probably going to help me more than it would have if I hadn’t been focusing on it.
Are there moments this year that you return to in your mind?
Getting the first cap under my belt. The first five, 10 minutes, I thought it was going to be a long game because I turned the ball over every single ball and was chasing like a mad woman. But settling down as the game went on, and just getting that game under my belt, gave me confidence going forward, to know I can compete at this level.
A lot of people view you as the future of women’s soccer in this country. Do you let yourself think about it in that way?
I really don’t look at it that way. We are in a transition period for the national team. And I may be one of the people that came up from it, but there are others. Sam Mewis is playing really well. Other people have gotten their first caps. It’s just an exciting time for the national team, in general, because there are a lot of really good players coming up and getting noticed. So I don’t think of myself as the focal point of it. I think I am one of many.
What is the next evolution for you?
Something that I take away from college is that I don’t think I did enough, I wasn’t productive enough for Wisconsin. I don’t think stats are the be-all and end-all, but I don’t think I scored enough for them, or created enough chances. So I want to work on finishing, creating more chances in the final third.
How do you do that?
You practice finishing, and you go back and study film, instances where I should have passed, instances where I should have taken it myself. Analyzing my game more, and working on this stuff in the off-season. It’s a little weird: It’s the first off-season I’ve really had, ever. I’ve had high school and club, college and summer league. It’s the first one I’ll be on my own, to train and find things to do.
To be able to go home to Cincinnati in September with the national team, have you envisioned what that’s going to be like?
I can’t take anything for granted. I have to make a roster first.
Sure, but there would be a riot. (Lavelle was on the roster released Sept. 7 for two matches against New Zealand, on Friday night in Commerce City, Colo., and on Tuesday night in Cincinnati.)
Yeah, but if I could make that roster, it would be so surreal. My mom is one of 12, so I have a lot of aunts and uncles, 40-plus cousins and then a lot of extended family. My ticket allotment is six.
So do you have a lottery system for them?
Actually, they’ve already bought a chunk of a section. They’ve traveled all over the place to watch me play in college. So to finally be able to come back to Cincinnati, and be able to play in front of them, play in front of my grandma, will just be really cool.