Claire Abrey has come a long way in her soccer career.
“It's just crazy to think that I started when I was four years old,” said the 17-year old. “I was just kicking the ball around with my Dad in the backyard, and now here I am."
A decade of hard work and practice on the pitch is producing results. Earlier this year she was invited to join Soccer Canada’s Under-20 national development camp in BC.
"It was definitely a good experience. I got to see how I compare to the top girls in the country,” said Abrey. “It kind of gave me some things I need to work on as a player."
She’s impressed many in her 13-years of soccer, including her coach, Terrol Russel, at the High Performance Development Program here in Saskatoon.
"Being able to go in, having never been away in that kind of environment by herself before, the mental strength an athlete brings to be able to continually compete in environments that she may not necessarily be used to, and still get success at the other end, you've got to give her immense credit,” he said.
The camp has also led to another opportunity for the grade 12 student.
“When I went to the national camp in March, I met a couple girls that attend the University of Memphis, so they told their coach about me afterwards, and then the coach reached out to me,” said Abrey. “We were talking for a few months, and I went down for a visit in July, and I officially committed in August of this year.”
Next summer she’ll move to Memphis to play NCAA Division I soccer with the Tigers, which she says will be a huge step along the way to her ultimate goal; playing for the Canadian Women’s National Team.
“They have a great program down there, and it's only going to challenge me and make me a better player, and hopefully I can contribute positively to the program as well.”
And she’ll have a big supporter in the form of her coach.
"We haven't seen what Claire's true ability is yet,” said Russell. “And I think if she continues to develop the way that she has, and by putting herself in environments surrounded by fellow lions as I like to say, I truly believe that Claire is going to surprise us all by reaching new levels in the next few years."