This is the third of a multi-part series of features on Racing Louisville’s rookie class of 2022 that will be released here and via the Butchertown Rundown podcast (@ButchertownR) on the Beautiful Game Network. Check out the first part of the series here with an article on Kirsten Davis and the second part with a podcast interview with Savannah DeMelo.
The Goalkeeper Spectrum
Hillary Beall wasn’t always a goalkeeper. As a child, she started out as a forward and was “decent” by her own estimation. But as she got older and less enthusiastic about so much running, she was eventually moved in front of the net.
“I was tall so they were like: Alright, we’ll throw you in the goal,” recalls Beall. With a smile, she adds, “I was pretty aggressive so it worked out OK.”
To help fuel that competitive edge, Beall says she could always rely on family friends to pump her up before matches.
“One of our family friends would scream before games ‘Who owns the box?’ And I would say ‘I do!’ And so I’d get riled up about ‘keeping the burglars out’ as my mom would say when I was a kid.”
Personal hype teams aside, Beall insists she isn’t as wild or as reckless as many keepers out there. But she isn’t without an edge, either. “Between goalkeepers, we always joke of like what edge of the goalkeeper spectrum are you on? There’s the far crazy edge, and then there are the more normal goalkeepers. I would say I’m maybe in the middle.”
Beall excelled enough in “keeping the burglars out” that she would have several options for collegiate soccer. As a Southern Californian, it’s no surprise that her entire family had always attended PAC-12 schools. Beall, however, wanted to do something different. She says the chance to go somewhere completely new was exciting. As was the opportunity to make a real impact on a growing program.
Ultimately, she chose the University of Michigan because it had the right mix of quality academics and athletics she was looking for. During her four and a half years in Ann Arbor, she excelled both on the field and in the classroom. She was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten (2019, 2020, 2021) and a three-time Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Week. In 2021, she captained the ninth-ranked Wolverines to a 17-4-3 record and into their third College Cup Elite Eight appearance in program history. They would eventually fall in overtime to first-ranked Florida State University in a nailbiter of a match that saw Beall save a penalty from FSU captain and future Racing teammate Jaelin Howell.
Beall actually knew Howell long before their meetup in the tournament last November. They, alongside future Racing players Emily Fox and Savannah DeMelo, became friends playing together in the 2018 U-20 World Cup in France. Beall and DeMelo go back even further. They were teammates on Beach FC, an ECNL club in Long Beach.
Beall says that being reunited with her old teammates has been wonderful.
“It almost feels like we’re kids in camp again,” she says. “It’s really cool to be able to be kids playing together and now we get to do it as our profession.”
One of the Better Environments
Old friends aside, all of Racing Louisville’s teammates are bonding well during the preseason, according to Beall.
“We talk about it every day, how close this group is from veterans to rookies.” She says everyone sits together at lunch and enjoys each other’s company. Key veterans like Jessica McDonald, Gemma Bonner, and Nadia Nadim have all been friendly and communicative with the younger players. In short, Beall says it’s an environment where all players – even rookies – can be themselves.
“I would say from a team chemistry standpoint it’s one of the better environments I’ve seen. And I’m actually really excited for this group, ’cause you can have all the talent, but that team aspect is really important and I feel as if this group has it.”
It’s not just the players that are creating a positive environment. The club and even the city itself give players a boost, too.
“I think it’s pretty amazing in our facility that we have everything we need right there,” says Beall, who notes the quality of Racing’s facilities and amenities comes up often among players. “Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, nutrition stuff. The gym is there are not a lot of clubs in the NWSL like that I know of really have all that.”
The support the team has received from the city is also something that stands out to Beall and her teammates.
“We drive around, we go to get coffee and love seeing Racing Louisville and Lou City all over the town. It feels a little bit like a mini-Portland in the way that the city seems to love the club. I think that’s something that really stands out to a player when you see that everywhere you go you’re supported and have a lot of people are behind you. So I think being a rookie and having that feeling after only a year of this team being in NWSL…I’m very excited about what’s ahead for it.”
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) February 17, 2022
It Feels Like a Family
Much of the comfort players have with Racing is thanks in part to club leadership. Coach Kim Björkengren has impressed players with his tactical knowledge and everyone is excited to see what he has planned for the team. Additionally, club culture is also important.
“I think from the organization standpoint it’s not just about what you do as a soccer player, but also who you are as a person,” says Beall. “I think that’s a really important thing when it comes to just being an athlete. Not just how you hold yourself but also what you represent.”
Beall says the club “feels like a family” several times in conversation. The way everyone from the office staff to players on both teams hangs out in the cafeteria together brings everyone closer together. This is especially important to rookies and people new to Louisville. Says Beall, “It’s great to have a kind of a family environment while being in a new city.”
A familial atmosphere breeds a sense of comfort and belonging in players. That can help create loyalty that’s critical to new clubs still establishing their foundations. Beall already says she’d “love to be here long term” and she knows that can only happen with hard work. In terms of goals for the season, she says: “It starts every day with how you train and how you hold yourself. So I think for me it’s just getting into things, learning, growing, and taking whatever opportunities are given to me and running with them.”
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) February 10, 2022