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Interview: Rachel Hill Talks Move to Chicago

First off, how has coronavirus impacted both your life and your training? How have you dealt with all the uncertainty around the delay? 

It has put an interesting twist on preseason. I’m trying my best to have some structure throughout the days. Staying on a good eating schedule, as well as remaining active as much as possible has helped a lot. Maintaining fitness is my biggest focus right now, until we’re able to start training again. The delayed start to the season is obviously unfortunate, but it’s building up my excitement even more for when we do get to start.

Going back to the beginning: you were originally drafted by Portland, then traded to Orlando three days later. What was your mindset like knowing you were about to be playing with stars like Alex Morgan and Marta? 

It started out as a whirlwind. Like, drafted by Portland, yay. And then three days later, nope, nevermind, heading to Orlando. I was really excited to get picked up by any team, but joining a team with players like that was definitely a bit nerve wracking. And I went in late as well cause I finished school first, so everyone else was used to playing with each other and being in Orlando.

I’m pretty shy, so I didn’t really say anything for at least the first couple of days. Just kept to myself, did what I had to do, and listened. But the team was great and very welcoming, making sure I wasn’t too nervous. And as the days went on, I started to have more conversations off the field. Players like Chi [Ubogagu] and Dani [Weatherholt] took me under their wings and made sure I was comfortable with everything. It took me a couple of weeks to adapt to the speed and I definitely had to turn my brain on a bit more. I kinda just got thrown into games and just went from there.

You pretty quickly went from new kid on the block to being one of the team’s leading scorers. What allowed you to make such a big jump?  

So my first trip, I can’t remember the dates exactly, but it was only a couple of weeks after I had gotten there. I didn’t expect to travel with the team, but I did. I didn’t play at all in the first game in Seattle, but then the next couple of games, I saw a couple of minutes. And then maybe a month later, I started my first game against Boston. And that was just surreal. It was amazing to get that opportunity. As time went, I felt like I really fit in with the team and was just able to contribute and develop as a player, especially going from that first year to the next. I wasn’t a consistent starter, but when I did get in, I made the most of my minutes. Scored a few goals. And then the third year I became a consistent starter, which was one of my goals. I feel like just getting minutes and actually getting to play a lot is really what helped me.

A lot of players struggle with the transition from being a star in college to then having to restart the whole journey in some sense of first being a back-up again and then having to slowly work their way onto the field. How’d you handle that mentally? 

Like you said, going from college and being the star to not even starting or maybe not even traveling, it’s definitely tough. And I think that in the back of my mind, I was just never satisfied with the minutes I got or how I played and stuff like that. I mean, you got to the pros, but are you really where you want to be? I just tried to make the most of every minute I got. I continued to work my hardest and slowly build my confidence, even if I was only getting 20 minutes a game. I made the most of it while also never being satisfied with minutes I was given.

You were traded to Chicago in the offseason. What are your thoughts about changing teams? 

I love Orlando, love the sunshine, and I’m definitely going to miss that. The team was always great with us, treated us really well. And you know, everyone could see we had such a star-studded team on paper, but for some reason things just hadn’t really clicked with us there. After being there three years, I was pretty comfortable there and I was really happy. But I think for my personal growth, I needed a change and I needed to try something new and be put in a new environment to try and challenge myself. So in the end, I’m hoping the move will be really good for me in that I am able to grow and have new experiences with different players and a new coach.

What makes you excited about Chicago in particular as the next stop on your journey? 

Chicago’s obviously been really successful in the past, so I just hope that I can help build on that success. Before I was traded, I didn’t know all of them obviously, but just from what I had heard about the girls, it sounded like they were a really great group. Team players, really team-focused and team-driven. And that’s what I love to be a part of. It’s just a team that is really all together and you know, fights for each other and works hard for each other, but also, you know, can have a laugh and is really enjoying what they’re doing.

And then on the field, obviously they’re going to need someone to step in and fill all the goals Sam Kerr scored. Katie Johnson is still there, and then adding Kealia [Ohai] and Makenzy [Doniak] and myself, I think we have the potential to have a pretty lethal front line this year, and I want to do everything I can to be a part of that.

You’re going into your fourth year. How has the league evolved since you joined? 

I think it’s been really great just to see the development from my first year till now. Definitely a lot of steps in the right direction, including the new TV deals and the salary cap being raised. Now we have housing provided for year round. All those things make such a difference, and they really show you just how hard everyone is working in the league to make it better and to improve every step of the way.

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season, but what would be your goals on the field for yourself and the team?

Team-wise is to make a run in the playoffs. I think with the success they’ve had, the ultimate goal this year is to win the league. But just game by game, we will have to grow as a new group. And my personal goal is to do everything I can to fit in with that group and get the most goals that I can and just do whatever the team needs me to do. I love to score goals, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to get some goals this year. But overall, I just want to do everything I can, work as hard as I can, to help the team be the best that we can.