2018-09-05 / Features

Abby’s English soccer adventure

BY KELLY SNOW
COURIER-TIMES SPORTS EDITOR


Person High School soccer player Abby Mayer (middle picture, right) participated in a week-long soccer adventure in England this summer. During her trip, she practiced and played with and against player from England and took in the sights including (above) London Stadium for a West Ham United game. PHOTOS SUBMITTED Person High School soccer player Abby Mayer (middle picture, right) participated in a week-long soccer adventure in England this summer. During her trip, she practiced and played with and against player from England and took in the sights including (above) London Stadium for a West Ham United game. PHOTOS SUBMITTED Her very first plane ticket was paid for, the plans were made, and a trip that was a year in the making was about a week away.

And then, Abby Mayer collided with an opposing player at a camp in Virginia and everything was in doubt — but maybe not for Mayer, herself.

The junior Person High School standout powered through a couple of tough injuries to have a bucketlist type soccer experience in England this past August.

Mayer, and other members of her Premier UK club soccer team, spent a week in England practicing, training and playing against some local teams. They did the normal travel soccer team things, but also hit up the sights — including trips to famed Wembley Stadium and seeing English Premier league team West Ham United play a home game at London Stadium.

She did all of that despite nursing a hip flexor injury and a severely bruised jaw suffered in the days leading up to her trip.

Mayer was more worried about the jaw injury, and barely felt any pain from the hip flexor until arriving in London after the long flight across the Atlantic.

During the week in England, she interacted with many well-known European footballers, including former Manchester United great Alan Smith.

Mayer said that some of the coaches she worked with in England are planning on visiting the U.S to see the players they worked with and watch their club games.

“There’s really no words for that,” Mayer said. “The coaches were amazing. It was weird how you were able to build such close relationships with people in just a week. I still keep in touch with them. They were checking on me after I got injured about how physical therapy was going and just keeping up with me. They legitimately care about their players.”

Mayer’s team was able to match up with local teams and even compete against players in their 20s, while being exposed to a different style of the beautiful game.

“One thing I love about soccer, especially women’s soccer, is that there is a lot of passing,” Mayer said. “It’s more of a mental game. (In England), it was a lot of footwork. They were very technical. We would throw in a move every now and then, but it more about connecting passes, but for them, it was like, they were holding on to the ball and only releasing it if they needed to.”

‘ABBY, IT’S LYNN WILLIAMS’

Several weeks before she left for England, Mayer was participating in a camp at Wingate University. She had just finished up playing in an All-Star game and was winding down when she looked at her phone and saw that she had several missed calls and Facetime requests.

They were from her Person coaches Lauren Weaver and Paige Cox.

Weaver and Cox went to see the Carolina Courage, the National Women’s Soccer League team based in Cary, and were hanging around talking to players after the game.

It just so happened that they were chatting with Mayer’s favorite player, forward Lynn Williams. The topic of conversation turned to the Rockets’ outstanding junior forward, and the Person coaches got an idea, and handed Williams the phone.

Mayer returned the missed calls, and couldn’t believe she was actually talking to her idol — seriously.

“I couldn’t say anything. I was shocked,” Mayer said. “I started to get nervous because (Weaver and Cox) play tricks all the time and you don’t know what to expect from them. I was fully prepared for Coach Cox to get on the phone and for it to be a big joke, and then I hear, ‘Hey Abby, it’s Lynn Williams.’”

Cox knew Mayer would think that, so she took a video of the conversation from Williams’ end.

Since that call in July, Williams and Mayer have stayed in touch through direct messages on Instagram. Williams has invited the Person coaches, Mayer and her family to an upcoming home game.

“Just having her DM me is just unreal,” Mayer said. “She’s my idol and I just look up to her so much. She plays my position, so obviously, I look up to her, but I think it’s more of her defensive style on the offense. Our coaches always say that the best defense is a good offense. To see someone put that into actual, visual form is cool to me.”

BRINGING IT BACK HOME

In her two years at Person, Mayer has already found a place as one of, if not the, best soccer player, male or female in school history.

She’s already amassed 45 goals and still has two full years of play in front of her.

“Her skill level is so high and she’s been one of the top scorers in the conference the last two years and would have been (tops) last year if she didn’t get the flu,” Weaver said. “She’ll only get better. She’s progressed as a passer and she came in as a freshman and immediately was a leader.”

She’s already getting recruited and hopes to commit to a college during the spring of 2019.

After playing in college, she wants to come home, coach, and help grow the sport she loves in Person County.

Mayer’s already getting a head start, as she plans to coach a youth soccer team this fall.

“I want to see soccer grow,” Mayer said. “I think women’s soccer is exploding in general and I want to bring that back to Person. I just have to play my game, get better and try to make it as far as I can, and when I’m done, come back. I’ll get as much as I can from the coaching classes I’ll take and be the best coach I can.”

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