May 28, 2014
When Kelsey Hodges walked off the field for the final time as a North Texas player in Nov., she ranked eighth in school history in career goals with 32, sixth in game-winning goals with 10 and fifth in shots on goal with 93 - and she did all this as a defender.
No wonder Hodges raised the eyebrows of the Seattle Sounders Women, one of the W-League's top squads and the sister organization of Seattle Sounders FC of the MLS.
The transition hasn't been easy, but over the last month Hodges has been transforming herself from the poster child of the Denton soccer scene into a professional in the most rabid soccer city in the nation.
The new kid in camp, Hodges came off the bench to help the Sounders split on their season-opening road trip to California, a state she had never set foot in before. Still, she's determined to succeed. MeanGreenSports.com caught up with the Sounders rookie and picked her brain about the journey to the big leagues.
MGS: You are a Denton kid through and through. You played four years at Guyer High School, followed by a four-year career at North Texas. Now you're 2,000 miles away in Seattle. How has that adjustment been?
KH: I love Seattle so far. I love the weather here most of all. It's 70 degrees every day, and a lot like Texas in mid fall. The main thing for me right now is the culture shock. I don't really know anyone up here. I'm living with a family that I met as I got off the plane, which is interesting. Luckily they're really cool - my host family is awesome. They have three kids that are extremely active in sports, so it's constantly entertaining watching them play. As far as soccer goes, it's an adjustment playing with people you've never played with before. It's a lot to be thrown at you all at once. It's a lot of adjusting to the style of play of the team, and the styles of the players that come from different programs all over the country.
MGS: You played with some top caliber North Texas teams, and played against some of the nation's best college players in your career. Still, how big is the jump to the next level in terms of the talent on the field?
KH: I'm up here with the best pick of the college players from all over the country. Obviously, it's another level as far as the talent is concerned. It's a lot faster play. Practice is a constant competition between everyone, and they are very fast paced. You have to be on your A-game the whole time or you aren't going to play. You have to make sure you have your full concentration at every moment or you could end up on the bench.
MGS: The Seattle Sounders Women are a pretty prestigious organization. Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux are just a few of the U.S. National Team players to have played for the Sounders. Of the 25 teams in the W-League, you have to feel pretty fortunate to sign with Seattle?
KH: I think it's really cool to be a part of this Seattle team. There are a few of the older players on our team that got the opportunity to play with the U.S. National Team players when they were here a few years ago, and it's cool to pick their brains about it, and to get that experience from them. It helps to make this a constant learning experience. It's definitely cool to be a part of a club that has this kind of history, because that's what all of us want to be in our careers. We all want to play soccer at that level.
MGS: How much help do you get from the veterans on the team?
KH: There are two or three players on our team right now that are reserves for Seattle Reign FC [of the National Women's Soccer League, the highest level pro women's soccer in the U.S.], so that means they often get the call up to practice with the Reign. That Reign squad has Hope Solo in goal, and Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux up top, and a few of our players get to go head-to-head with them. They get that top-level experience, and then they bring it back to our practices and games. To have that kind of experience on your team is amazing. They are constantly helping the rest of us, and teaching us what you have to do in different situations. The fact that they get to practice with so many of the national team players is simply amazing. You get to hear all the stories they tell, and it's just another form of motivation to make you work harder in every practice. I want to be one of those players getting the call up to practice with the Reign.
MGS: The Sounders are in the W-League, and the Reign play in the National Women's Soccer League. The two leagues aren't affiliated, but it sounds like the two teams partner up to share talent. Tell me a little more about that.
KH: Even though the Sounders aren't officially a reserve team for the Reign right now, you can always be called up. The Reign head coach comes to all of our home games if she's in town because they have players that get called away to National Team functions, and injuries are always a part of the game unfortunately. If the Reign needs someone to fill a spot for a few days their coaching staff can call you up to practice or even travel and play with the team if they need. I would give anything to practice with those National Team players.
MGS: You started 84 of your 85 career games at North Texas, but you've been a reserve in your first few games this season. Has that been a tough transition for you, and is one of your goals to crack the starting lineup?
KH: Getting into the starting lineup is definitely one of my goals. It is a little different for me coming off the bench. Just like everyone out here, I started and played in almost every minute of my college career. Now, I'm in a place where I have to earn my way onto the field, and it feels like I'm in the background a little bit. I know that I have to take advantage of every minute I get on the field and make the most of my time. My mindset is to show the coaches that they should have started me, and they should have played me the full 90 minutes. My goal further down the season is to be starting, and one of this squad's top 11.