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Soccer: Orlando relies on NH star for offense, energy

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 19. 2018 7:48PM
Rollinsford's Rachel Hill works the ball upfield during a recent Orlando Pride game. (COURTESY)

When Rachel Hill comes off the bench for the Orlando Pride, she knows what her teammates and coaches expect out of her: energy and goals.

The 23-year-old forward from Rollinsford has provided plenty of both for the Pride this National Women’s Soccer League season.

Hill has come off the bench in 11 of the 16 games she has played in this season, scoring four goals over 590 minutes. U.S. Women’s National Team star Alex Morgan, Chioma Ubogagu and Hill are tied for second on the Pride in goals scored.

Hill will look to add to her goal tally when Orlando (8-6-4) hosts Milford native Morgan Andrews and Seattle Reign FC (8-4-5) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game can be seen on Lifetime.

“I just know that when I come on, they’re looking for me to bring energy,” Hill said. “I try to bring that every time I step on the field. ... I think that’s the biggest part of being a sub: you need to be ready to go bring that energy.”

Hill, a Somersworth High and University of Connecticut graduate, said she approaches the game almost the same way whether she is a substitute or a starter. The only difference is that when Hill enters the game as a sub, she does not have to worry about stamina and can focus solely on making an impact.

“I have less time to do what I’m on the field to do: score goals, get assists,” Hill said. “I guess in a sense I know that I can put it all out there right away because I only have 20 minutes to do it whereas when I start a game, obviously you make all the runs but in the back of your head (you know) you have to last 60-90 minutes.”

When Hill comes into the game in the second half, her work ethic energizes her teammates, Pride midfielder Dani Weatherholt said. “It’s hard to come in as a sub in a game and she could easily start,” Weatherholt said of Hill. “She does that role very well and she’s scored some big goals for us. I’m so impressed by her play and what she brings to the team. She’s such an important part of our team.”

Weatherholt, who is rooming with Hill in Orlando this season, has also noticed a growth in Hill’s confidence compared to last year.

As a rookie last season, Hill logged three goals and an assist in 14 games, eight of which she started. After the Pride’s campaign ended last year, Hill spent the NWSL offseason in Australia playing for Perth Glory FC of the Westfield W-League. She finished with the third-most goals (nine) and most assists (six) in the W-League after playing in 12 games, all of which she started.

“I think that (confidence growing) has a lot ot do with her playing in the W-League in the offseason,” Weatherholt said. “She had a very successful year there. She scored a lot of goals so she came in sharp.”

Hill said she learned a lot and gained confidence during her time in Australia but that is not the only reason for her production with the Pride this year.

“I think I’m just used to the league now,” Hill said. “I’m used to playing with these girls and I think going to Australia gave me more confidence and reminded me that I can score. I think that carried over here.”

Three of Hill’s goals this NWSL season came during a three-game stretch. Her second of the campaign came in a 4-3 loss to the North Carolina Courage on May 23, in which she tied the game at 3-3 in the 83rd minute. She entered the game in the 75th minute.

Hill started against the Chicago Red Stars three days later, scoring in the second minute en route to a 5-2 Pride triumph. In her next appearance, Hill came off the bench and provided the game-winning tally via a header in Orlando’s 3-2 victory over Sky Blue FC on June 16.

“I think Rachel always gives 110 percent, works as hard as she can and works to score,” Weatherholt said. “Her minutes played (compared) to goals scored, I think she’s at the top of the league. That’s a very impressive stat to have. With the time she’s given, she makes the most out of it.”

Hill said everyone loves to start but she has embraced her role of primarily serving as a substitute for Orlando, stating she will do whatever her team asks of her.

“Obviously the end goal is for us to win,” Hill said. “Anything I can do to help that and help impact the game, I feel as though I’ve done my job.”