USWNT keeper Alyssa Naeher’s first dream: to play for Geno at UConn

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Alyssa Naeher may be a star soccer player now, but the USWNT keeper’s first love was basketball.

Naeher tells host and USWNT teammate Kelley O’Hara in the season premiere of the Just Women’s Sports Podcast that she split time between soccer and basketball growing up, with the latter often winning out.

“That’s what I thought I would do with my life. I prayed every morning when I was a kid, my parents can attest to it, of wanting to make the WNBA. I wanted to be a professional basketball player. I wanted to go to UConn,” says Naeher, a Connecticut native.

A proud member of the UConn Huskies Club as a kid, Naeher says it was her dream to “play basketball for Geno (Auriemma).”

Deep into her burgeoning soccer career, Naeher continued to play basketball in high school and even joined an intramural team in college.  Ali Krieger, a fellow USWNT legend, happened to be on the same Penn State intramural team, which — no surprise — won the league.

Naeher’s passion for basketball still ended up impacting her soccer career, pushing her to move from a field player to goalie.

“Because I always liked basketball, I always liked being in goal, because I could play with my hands and I liked diving around in the mud and getting dirty.”

A soccer camp at age 13 solidified Naeher’s passion for goalkeeping, with an enthusiastic coach sealing the deal.

“It was just the way that he was talking about it,” says Naeher, adding, “Then we had that first session and I was like, ‘That was awesome. That was fun. I want to do this.’ And I was like, “You can take me out [of the field player drills],’ and I started training more specifically in goal.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Listen to Kelley O’Hara’s full conversation with USWNT teammate Alyssa Naeher on the Just Women’s Sports Podcast.