A foot in the door with national team
BC’s Mewis will be ready when called
Her story could be called “A Tale of Two Teams.’’ One actual, one potential.
Kristie Mewis plays forward for Boston College’s women’s soccer team, or at least she will until the US national team calls her into camp, as it already has three times this year.
With the Olympic regional qualifying tournament in Vancouver coming up in January, odds are good that the 20-year-old Hanson native will be summoned for duty. The only questions will be when and where.
“They let you know like a month before the camp,’’ Mewis says. “Now that I know that I could potentially be getting called in, I always have to be ready for it.’’
Until then, she’ll be BC’s mainspring - shooting, servicing, and defending as the fourth-ranked Eagles, who host Rutgers tonight, try to improve on last year’s invigorating if improbable run to the NCAA Final Four.
Mewis, a first-team All-American and a leading candidate for the Hermann Trophy that goes to the nation’s top player, is only a junior but she’s wearing a bull’s-eye after a season in which she scored 10 goals and set up a school-record 14.
Not that she feels unduly targeted.
“Kristie wants to be that player who changes the game, who has the game on her shoulders,’’ says coach Alison Foley. “She’s grown into that.’’
Mewis won’t have to go solo on a team that has a half-dozen other returning starters, plus gifted freshmen such as Stephanie McCaffrey and Casey Morrison. Besides Vicki DiMartino, her high-scoring sidekick, there’s captain/keeper Jillian Mastroianni standing sentinel.
“Kristie has an emerging supporting cast around her,’’ says Foley.
As talented as Mewis is, it will take more than her if BC wants to survive in the toughest league in the land, one in which fifth-place Wake Forest won last year’s tournament. Eight of the 11 Atlantic Coast Conference varsities earned NCAA bids, with five making the Sweet 16.
“Anybody in the ACC can beat us and we can give everybody in the ACC a good game,’’ says Foley, whose squad finished sixth in the regular-season standings. “That’s what’s so exciting. There’s no breathing room.’’
But Mewis gets the most attention of anyone because she’s so versatile and dangerous.
“Everyone knows what Kristie’s capable of,’’ says Mastroianni. “She can shoot when she doesn’t even have an angle; all she needs is a slight gap. And she’ll take it when you least expect it.’’
And when Mewis is heading to the end line with the ball on her left foot, her teammates automatically head for the box.
“We’ve been able to count on that service,’’ says Foley. “Don’t wait. Get to your place of arrival.’’
Mewis has been a prodigy since she was in middle school.
“I heard about this little skinny girl who was so technical,’’ says Foley, who also lives on the South Shore. “People said, ‘She’ll go to BC one day.’ ’’
When Mewis was in high school, she and younger sister Samantha, who’s now a UCLA freshman, both started for the US under-17 team that finished second in the 2008 World Cup, with Kristie winning the Bronze Ball as the tournament’s third-best player. Every college from the Carolinas to California wanted her, but she had her heart set on The Heights.
“It’s close to home, I love the campus, I love the coach, I love the school,’’ she thought, “so I think that’ll be a good fit for me.’’
Mewis was an immediate fit on the field, where she started for a BC group that reached the NCAA quarterfinals. Last year, she was the indispensable player on the team that made history by getting to the semifinals before losing to Stanford.
So when the US team was preparing for this summer’s World Cup in Germany, Mewis found herself on coach Pia Sundhage’s speed-dial, the youngest player in camp, suiting up alongside the Wambachs, Rampones, and Lloyds.
“They’re all my idols,’’ says Mewis. “I would watch them on TV and be like, ‘Oh my God, it would be so amazing if I could play for this team one day.’ And then I’m out there actually playing with them.
“It was like a dream come true. It was awesome. Everything was so much more intense, everything was so much quicker, and it took me a while to get used to it. But once I got the hang of it, it was a blast.
“It was like the best time of my life. To be able to play at that level was incredible.’’
So when she watched the Americans’ run to the final, where they lost on penalty kicks to the Japanese, Mewis had virtual 12th-player status, even if she was on a couch instead of the bench.
“I felt like I was a part of it just because I had met them all and had played with them all,’’ she says. “I know how hard all of them worked and how much time and effort they put into absolutely everything that they did.
“I know what they went through. They put their hearts and bodies on the line every day for that World Cup. So I was really disappointed for all of them.’’
When the next Cup comes around in 2015, both Mewis and her sister could be on the team, as they were again for the global under-20 tournament last year.
“That would be the ultimate,’’ says Samantha. “Too good to even talk about.’’
They’ve been teammates since their Whitman-Hanson days after starting off as backyard rivals, with big sister giving little sister no quarter.
“Never,’’ testifies Samantha, who will be Kristie’s rival when BC plays UCLA next season. “She always beat me and she was never nice about it.
“But it helped me a lot. Having her as a role model helped me get to where I am. She was like a road map for me.’’
From here, Kristie’s own road map is uncertain, depending on whether she’s called into camp for the Olympic qualifier.
“Pia said to always be ready, that I might get called back this fall,’’ she says. “For the national team, it’s their job, so it doesn’t really matter for them when they go in. But I have school, so I have to send letters out to my teachers and get permission to leave. I’ll have to miss my classes and do work on the road.
“You’re always supposed to be prepared to go, so when it happens, it happens, and I’ll deal with it when it comes.’’
All Mewis knows is that her actual team is playing Rutgers tonight. Her potential team is TBD.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.