COLUMBIA — Most professional athletes have probably been dreaming about their careers since they were children. But Missouri women’s soccer player Kristin Andrighetto said the idea did not come to her until the opportunity presented itself during the fall soccer season.
“Growing up there wasn’t a pro women’s soccer league, so I guess it never crossed my mind,” she said. “I didn’t even think of doing it until I got invited to the tryout … Of course every little girl wants to be Mia Hamm. I guess I just never considered it or thought I’d be able to do it.”
Andrighetto was one of about 80 women to attend an open combine last week with the Chicago Red Stars, a women’s professional soccer team.
Thursday’s schedule consisted of a morning session focusing on technical skills, like passing and finishing, and an afternoon session of three 20-minute scrimmages with six players on each team. Friday’s focus was on fitness testing which included a 300-yard shuttle run, a 40-yard dash and a vertical jump followed by eight player scrimmages. On Saturday, Andrighetto was one of only eight players to be invited to stay for a special training session to test footwork and fitness.
Andrighetto said that despite the rigorous training schedule, she was not nervous about the tryout.
“It was a good nervous, so it wasn’t anything bad,” she said. “I was just really excited to go and looked at it as a good opportunity, so it was more fun than nerve-wracking.”
Going into the tryout, she also said she was not completely sure about playing soccer at the professional level, but she now looks forward to hearing if she made the team.
“It would be a cool experience,” she said. “I just kind of wanted to see if I still wanted to play and train at a high level, and I think it answered a lot of questions for me about what I want to do. If I don’t make the team, I’ll be sad. But, I’ll be satisfied with just having been able to tryout, and if I make the team that would be cool.”
Andrighetto will not find out if she made the Red Stars’ until the official draft on January 15. Though it takes place in Philadelphia, Andrighetto will watch it from her computer at her home in Pleasant Hill, Calif. She hopes that her performance during the combine was good enough to be drafted.
“I definitely think I came in as good as I could have, and I thought I did well,” she said. “Hopefully it was enough for them.”
Volunteer assistant coach Danny Graville attested to the fact that Andrighetto performed well at the try-out. Graville helped train Andrighetto for the combine when the season was over and agreed to attend it with her in Chicago. When the Red Stars’ coaches were notified that he would be attending, they asked if he would help out by coaching one of the scrimmaging teams.
“It was one of the hardest things to stay neutral because I had a team I was coaching, but I was also looking out the corner of my eye to watch her,” he said. “I had the privilege of having meetings with all the coaches behind closed doors and they really liked her goal-scoring ability. I had to be fair, but the coaches really liked her, and I got to see her stack up on the third day.”
Andrighetto enjoyed having Graville’s help and support at the try-out.
“Since I was the only one going, I kind of asked him to go,” she said. “He helped me to stay focused and recover. He’d get the ice for ice baths and get groceries for breakfast, and he was supportive the whole time and was there to get me whatever I needed.”
To get ready for the combine, Graville prepared a schedule for Andrighetto, which consisted of difficult two-a-day training sessions, which included practicing technical skills, running, cardio and pool workouts. However, according to Graville, Missouri’s training also gave her an advantage.
“On top of her talent, the program the girls are part of at Mizzou definitely is the main reason she was ready for that combine whether its strength or condition or the actual coaching aspect,” he said. “The Mizzou program is pretty blessed compared to others in the country. We have a pretty good thing going on and going up there reinforced my confidence in our program.”
This year, Missouri (13-6-3) won the Big 12 regular season title led by Andrighetto and five other talented seniors. Head coach Bryan Blitz said that he received calls from coaches that were impressed with Andrighetto throughout the season and that some even came out to watch her play. While playing for Missouri, Andrighetto was the team’s leading scorer three years, ranks first in all-time shots with 379 and is second in goals scored with 38. This season she scored 11 goals and was named to the All-Big 12 first team for a third time.
Blitz said that whether she makes the team or not depends on the Red Stars’ needs, but that he thinks that she has the skill to play professionally.
“I think that she’s matured a lot this year,” he said. “I think she’s a great person, has a great character, and this year her mental toughness has matured a lot. Anytime you score goals you’re going to be popular in the soccer world, but she has a combination of work ethic, skills, and sophistication and the mental toughness piece is the thing that’s setting her apart from other talented players.”