Raymer brings international experience to Missouri soccer team

Friday, August 31, 2012 | 6:05 a.m. CDT; updated 7:56 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 31, 2012
Missouri soccer player Abi Raymer, a British Columbia native, is playing more than 2,000 miles from home.

COLUMBIA — Soccer has been good to Abi Raymer.

It’s already brought the 19-year-old to more places than most people go in their entire lives. The Victoria, British Columbia, native had the opportunity to play in Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago as a part of Canada’s national squad in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup before taking a spot on the prestigious Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Now, she’s more than 2,000 miles from home playing on scholarship for Missouri, continuing a career that took a bit of effort to get started when she was a little girl.

“I told my mom I had to play soccer,” Raymer said, “But she told me, ‘No,’ because she wouldn’t be able to drive me to practice.”

The issue was quickly resolved with a bit of persuasion.

“I was kind of stubborn as a kid,” Raymer said.

The youngest of three children, Raymer wanted to do everything her brothers did, which led her to soccer, and the rest is history. She was talented enough in secondary school to earn a spot in Canada’s youth program at 16, and was named Canada’s 2010 U-17 Player of the Year.

Raymer then spent 2010 and 2011 with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, playing with skilled players of all ages.

To play in Vancouver, Raymer had to live with a friend’s family just to make it to practice every day. The trip from Victoria to Vancouver included two car trips and a 100-minute ride on the ferry, making the option of staying at home impossible.

The lack of competition in Victoria made Raymer’s decision to leave home easier.

“There’s only so many people on the island,” Raymer said. “Playing Whitecaps was definitely the best choice I could’ve made.”

Vancouver’s coach at the time, Hubert Busby, was an acquaintance of Missouri recruiting coordinator Todd Shulenberger. One thing led to the next, and Raymer was soon making an official visit to Columbia to check out MU. After being recruited by schools across the country, the decision to attend Missouri was an easy one.

“It wasn’t really a question,” Raymer said. “It was just an all-around great experience.”

Even Raymer’s mother was comfortable with her youngest child being half a continent away, which Missouri coach Bryan Blitz attributes to the close-knit environment within the soccer team.

“Abi’s mom felt like her daughter was going to be taken care of,” Blitz said. “And the academic opportunities offered at the university were a big plus.”

Freshman year in 2011 was not all roses, however.

Blitz said that, despite Raymer’s previous accomplishments, last year was still a big transition on and off the field.

He blamed “freshman-itis” for some of Raymer’s struggles, and she agreed.

“I was nervous all the time, always going at 110 percent to impress the coaches,” Raymer said. “This year, I feel like I’m more comfortable out there, and it’s helping me showcase my skills more.”

Those skills were on full display Sunday night in Berkeley, Calif., when Raymer broke a 2-2 tie against No. 15 California with a second-half header that ended up being the game-winning goal.

Raymer has started all three games for the undefeated Tigers this season, scoring two goals and adding one assist.

Redshirt freshman Lauren Flynn believes Raymer stands out with her mature playing style and is the Tigers’ standard for humility.

“I didn’t even know she got Player of the Year, and she’s my best friend on the team,” Flynn said. “She is really focused and always wants to improve herself.”

Raymer was even willing to make a big sacrifice this summer when she switched from striker — her favorite position — to center midfielder to help the team. It’s already paying dividends for the talented Tiger.

“I’m actually starting to really like center mid,” Raymer said. “I feel like it plays more to my strengths than an outside position.”

Given her impressive history of adapting to new environments, it’s no wonder the position change has been a breeze. Raymer has worked too hard to let something like that get in the way of a blossoming career.

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