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Soccer makes her world go round

Not yet 18, she has a ticket to take it all in

Senior forward Rachel Blauner, with head coach Pam Ross, is a leader on the East Bridgewater High School soccer team. Senior forward Rachel Blauner, with head coach Pam Ross, is a leader on the East Bridgewater High School soccer team. (George Rizer for The Boston Globe)
By Colleen Casey
Globe Correspondent / August 28, 2011

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Rachel Blauner has already traveled to Costa Rica, Ireland, and Brazil. Next year, the East Bridgewater 17-year-old is off to Russia and Argentina. Her extensive travel resumé exists because of her passion and talen for playing soccer.

At age 4, Blauner started playing in youth leagues in East Bridgewater. She quickly developed a love for the game. She joined a club team, South Shore Select, at 7, and the Massachusetts Olympic Development Program team by 10. Playing ODP has allowed her to play soccer around the world.

“Normally I go on 10- to 11-day trips and play four to five games,’’ said the 5-foot-6 forward, who has already made a verbal commitment to attend Boston University next fall. “We train and get to know the culture. It’s a really good experience to take in different cultures and see different places.’’

Her favorite adventure was Brazil.

“Their entire culture revolves around soccer,’’ said Blauner, who visited Rio De Janeiro.

“There are soccer fields everywhere. It’s such an environment for soccer.’’ In addition to discovering different cultures, Blauner is gaining more insight into soccer itself.

“We played against Brazil, and they played so creative and fast,’’ she said. “It’s cool to see how other teams play, and bring it back with you to incorporate it to your style, and bring ideas back to your coaches.’’

Pam Ross, varsity girls’ coach at East Bridgewater High, said that Blauner “brings what she learns back here, and we definitely incorporate some of the moves she’s learned. She makes everyone playing around her better.’’

Last fall, with a 16-2-0 mark, East Bridgewater captured first place in the South Shore League for the first time since 1984, when Ross was a player. The coach said that she has been “dying to get it done as a coach.’’ Blauner, who led the league in scoring, was key in the successful run.

“She just is head and shoulders above everyone on the field,’’ said Ross. “She’s so fast and skilled she can pretty much do whatever she wants. She’s definitely the focal point on the field, a natural leader.’’

Blauner started on varsity as a freshman and has dominated the South Shore League ever since. She finished last season with 31 goals and 18 assists, the second-highest point total in the state.

“She’s definitely an attacker,’’ said Ross. “A natural soccer player.’’

Bob Blauner said that he would love to see his daughter reach 100 career goals.

“She’d be the first female in East Bridgewater history,’’ he said. “It’d be a great ending to her high school career.’’

Blauner, who enters the season with 68 goals, and fellow senior captain Melissa Figueiredo share the same goal: winning the South Shore League and advancing deep in the MIAA Tournament.

“We have a good team this year, a good player in every position,’’ said Figueiredo. “We want to win again and this time go far in the playoffs.’’

The Vikings were shut out by Ashland, 2-0, in the first round of the Division 2 South Sectional last year.

Figueiredo said she is confident for this season and that her team has a good leader. “Rachel is the best leader,’’ she said. “She works hard and brings an up-beat attitude to the team. She’s an all-around great person and team player.’’

Blauner and her teammates kicked off the preseason on Thursday, but unofficially, their work started much earlier. “We’ve had captains practice every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday since early July. We want people to be in shape and be ready for this year,’’ she said.

While her focus is on the Vikings, she is also excited about her future at BU.

“I’m so happy. I love BU. I can’t wait to play there,’’ said Blauner. “It is my dream school. [The Olympic Development Program] definitely helped me get into BU.’’

Bob Blauner said that the program was instrumental in the recruitment of his daughter.

“It’s been an incredible and invaluable opportunity for her. ODP has the top coaches that gave her the most exposure,’’ he said.

University of Massachusetts Amherst women’s coach Ed Matz, who has coached Blauner with the ODP program, said that she will do well at the next level.

“Rachel is a rarity with athletes nowadays. She is the complete package,’’ said Matz.

“Any Division 1 coach would want her. . . . She’ll be one of the best players in America East before she’s done at BU.’’

Blauner said she wants to play up to her full potential in college and try to make the Olympic team. “It’d be really awesome to play for the Olympic team,’’ she said. “It’s a huge goal of mine.’’

She will continue doing what she loves, working hard and not forgetting how she got to where she is.

“I’m so lucky I have the support I have.’’ She added, “I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened.’’

Colleen Casey can be reached at colleen.casey@globe.com.