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Raelynn Mikell, a Gilbertsville resident and 2010 graduate of Boyertown High School, received a phone call recently from someone with the Philadelphia Fever, a professional soccer organization, about an opportunity to join their team. The day Mikell found out about playing on the team was on Father’s Day, which was a great present for her father Ray.
She missed the initial tryouts because she was at the University of Hartford for her final exams, but was asked to join the reserve team. Within the first week, she was named the captain of the practice squad. Mikell then got the opportunity to practice with the professional team, where she is currently on the roster and playing in the games.
“I love the training,” said Mikell. “You have to train with girls if you want to get better. I think that’s what it’s doing for me.”
Boyertown High, girls soccer coach, Bill Goddard, is very proud of what Mikell has accomplished being able to play at the next level. He knows that every player dreams about it, but very few reach it.
“Raelynn has done very well in college, and she’s had a very good career so far at Hartford,” said Goddard. “She had an opportunity and to this point and she’s making the most of it. She’s traveling and getting playing time with the big squad. I’m happy for her, and I’m thrilled for her.
“When she left here I didn’t’ think she reached her potential. I knew there was more in there. Her college coached could dig a little bit deeper and I’m sure she matured a little bit more as a person. I know she’s developed a better work ethic and when you do all those things and people pushing you in the right direction, good things happen.”
Mikell took it as an honor, being named captain of the reserve squad (an Under 23 team). She felt that it was difficult to get a group of players whom she never played with at first to get along and play well. She knew that all the players were motivated to play at a high level like herself, so as it turned out, it wasn’t that hard of a task.
But playing on the big team, that’s a little different. Playing on a team with players who are three years or older than her at the tender age of 20 can be very intimidating as well.
“I’m the low man on the totem pole,” said Mikell. “Playing with them I’ve learned so much more because they have all of these years of experience they can relay to me and I can use that in a game. They are the leaders of the teamm they’re older. I follow what they do, do what they do and do what they say.”
Raelynn wasn’t surprised when she was asked to play on the reserve team Mikell knew that the organization was training players to play for the team. She was more surprised when she was asked to play on the regular team.
“It was a great feeling,” said Mikell. “I felt that all I have overcome and the hard work after redshirting with a knee injury has paid off.”
Mikell’s first reaction was pure excitement. Raelynn couldn’t wait to step on the field with the other players on the team. She has a lot of respect for them and for what they do. There were also players on her team and other teams in the league who are on the U.S. Olympic team. That is the level of competition she will be playing with and against.
“I’m ready for the challenge and I thrive on that challenge,” said Mikell.
Being able to play on a team like this has always been a goal and a dream of Mikell’s. Of course, she has also dreamed of being on the Olympic team. That is her next goal. However, Raelynn knows that there’s a lot of training involved before she can reach that goal.
According to Jamie Scott, an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Fever, they knew what kind of player they had right away.
“Raylynn has worked her way up fromThe U-23’s and she has now made the Fever’s last two rosters and is expected to remain involved for the remainder of the season,” said Coach Scott. “Straight from the get go she was someone identified by Coach Punt (Fever U23 Coach) as a player who could potentially make a step up. Raylynn has made the necessary changes to her game in order to play at this level.”
Mikell was very nervous when she first stepped on the field with all these good players. She wasn’t sure if she would get into the game when she first got there. Raelynn sat there in shock during warm-up. Once she got into the game and into the groove, all the shock and nervousness went away.
“I enjoyed it. I enjoyed playing with that skill level,” said Mikell. “I enjoy being challenged every time I step onto the field. That’s exactly what this league does for me. I thrive on the challenge.”
Raelynn kept her confidence up to help her get over the nervousness. She had been practicing with them all summer and Mikell knew that she could play with the players who were on the field.
Her first game was against a team from Indiana, against players who were speaking another language. It was a very fast and intense game. The other players were screaming at the refs, screaming from the coaches along with screaming from the players. It was very intense and it’s something that she’s never experienced before.
Mikell has never played in that type of atmosphere before and that was very nerve-racking for her.
“It’s not just a game to them, it’s their life,” said Mikell. “It’s not like ‘oh, we’ll lose and that’s it’. We’re winning and that’s the end of the story.”
The season will end by the end of July even though most of the players are out of college. However, there are still some players who are in college and they start their pre-season the end of July or early August.
Mikell will be playing center back next year in college and she’ll be the first to admit that she’s learned a lot.
After playing with this pro team, going back to playing the college game will seem a lot different and a lot slower of a game. “It’s going to seem a tad slower and it’s a lot more two touch (college) compared to here where it’s one touch (Flames),” said Mikell. “It’s still at a pretty fast pace and I would say the pros is the next step up.”
“RayLynn is a versatile player who can play across the defense and as a holding midfielder, said Coach Scott. “This kind of versatility is crucial in a short season.
“Off the field She is a respectful, intelligent and polite individual who has been a credit to her community and her college. A true pleasure to work with. Goddard knows that without a doubt, playing on a team like this will help her when she goes back to play at the college level. He believes that the old adage is to get better, you must face better competition.
“She’s getting a good experience and a good opportunity,” said Goddard. “She’s making the most of it.”
Mikell is one of a few players who have played soccer at a pro level. That’s a very big honor for herself and for the town of Boyertown.
“I’m proud to say I’m from Boyertown,” said Mikell. “I’m proud to say that I’ve been coached by my mom (Kathi) most of my life. I’m proud to say that played for Coach (Bill) Goddard and Coach (Tim) Raub. I have a huge support system with my family. It means a lot to me to have family supporting me.”