Hill, Andrews thriving while playing with onetime idols
By ALEX HALL New Hampshire Union Leader
Morgan Andrews boots one while playing for the Boston Breakers. The Breakers host the Pride at Harvard University's Jordan Field Saturday at 4 p.m. (COURTESY)
Rachel Hill grew up cheering for United States Women’s National Team soccer players Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger while watching them on television. These days, Hill gets to see her childhood heroes compete in person almost daily.
Hill, a rookie forward from Rollinsford, Morgan and Krieger are teammates on the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League. Orlando (7-6-5, 26 points) also boasts Marta, a five-time FIFA World Player of the Year and member of the Brazil Women’s National Team.
“I’m looking up to them, trying to take everything in from how they perform and I’m really learning from them,” Hill said.
Like Hill, Morgan Andrews grew up watching the U.S. Women’s National Team compete in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Olympics.
Andrews, a Milford native, always dreamed of playing professionally like the national team members she idolized as a kid. Her dream became reality Jan. 12 when the Boston Breakers selected her with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft. Hill was drafted No. 14 overall by the Portland Thorns, who traded her to Orlando six days later.
Hill, who played with Andrews on U.S. youth national teams when she was younger, is hoping she will get the chance to face her former teammate this weekend. The Breakers (3-8-7, 16 points) host Orlando at Harvard University’s Jordan Field Saturday at 4 p.m.
Hill is recovering from an ankle sprain and did not play in Orlando’s past two games.
Saturday’s contest will mark one of Andrews’ final appearances for Boston this season. The 22-year-old will head back to the University of Southern California next week to finish school and earn her broadcast and digital journalism degree.
Andrews said she will play with the Breakers Aug. 26 when they travel to play Sky Blue FC and be available if the team needs her going forward.
“I definitely had great ups this season but I’ve also had a lot of lessons and learning experiences and it was a different way of playing and a different way of being in a team environment,” Andrews said. “It was a dream come true being able to call myself a professional but there’s also a lot of work to be done.”
Hill, 22, joined the Pride nearly a month after the NWSL season began. She graduated from the University of Connecticut May 7 with a sports management degree and left for Orlando shortly afterward.
Less than two weeks into her career with the Pride, Hill found herself in the starting lineup for Orlando’s home game against Andrews and the Breakers June 3.
Hill, UConn’s second all-time leader in goals scored (61), played the entire game in her NWSL debut, helping Orlando to a 2-0 triumph over Boston. The contest marked the first time Hill and Andrews had ever faced each other.
Once Hill got her break, it did not take her long to live up to her goal-scoring reputation. Her first career goal proved to be the game-winner in Orlando’s 3-2 victory over Sky Blue on June 28.
Hill, a Somersworth High School graduate, has become more comfortable on the ball and taking players on as the season has progressed.
“I’ve started to do that a little bit more,” Hill said. “I’m taking chances when I have them. I’m slowly improving.”
Andrews, who scored 35 goals in college over her time at Notre Dame and USC, has yet to score for the Breakers. Boston coach Matt Beard has used Andrews in a more defensive capacity as a holding midfielder, which has been an adjustment for the former Milford High School star.
“I said when we signed her in the draft that we saw her as a (No.) 6 and 8, particularly because she has good size, is physical and reads the game well,” Beard said.
Andrews misses playing higher up the field but has embraced her new role. She has become a regular in Boston’s lineup since her first start — a 3-1 loss at the North Carolina Courage June 17.
Andrews said playing alongside veteran and fellow defensive midfielder Angela Salem has helped her adjust to the new position. Salem, 29, played at Francis Marion University and has been a professional since 2010.
“She taught me how to get into the position I needed to be in, be a stronger defender one on one and as a defender alongside the team,” Andrews said. “She helped me out a lot with being a defender and being a better teammate and player on the field because she leads by example.”
Andrews might find herself using some defensive tactics Salem has taught her to slow Hill come Saturday.
“She’s such a creator and such a positive player,” Andrews said of Hill. “I don’t love when she creates opportunities against my team but she’s so fun to watch.”