The United States and England have at times had a tumultuous relationship, but when the two collaborate, great things can happen. Just look at the success of the Beatles in the U.S. or David Beckham’s two-continent career.
Born in Minnesota, but raised in both England and the United States, Loyola’s women’s soccer star, 20-year-old defender and midfielder Hailey Merrill, psychology major, has been playing soccer for as long as she can remember. And as a citizen of both countries, she has plenty of soccer heroes to learn from.
“My dad is from England,” Merrill said. “He played rugby and soccer his whole entire life and loves soccer.”
This was a love he passed onto Merrill.
“[As] the story goes, from the time I was walking I was always rolling a soccer ball at my feet,” she said. “I don’t remember a time I wasn’t playing soccer. It was a family thing we did.”
Another perk of having dual citizenship is that Merrill can make either national team in the future.
“My dad always jokes that the England National Team is easier to make than the U.S. National Team… but it’s more for travel purposes,” Merrill said of why she became a dual citizen.
After attending Edina High School in a suburb of Minneapolis and visiting England multiple times during her childhood, Merrill decided she wanted to attend college in a completely different location. After several college visits around the Midwest and visits to her brother at University of Wisconsin, she realized she was looking for a smaller city school.
“It’s funny. I still joke about it with [Head Coach] Barry [Bimbi]. I, like, begged him, ‘Please let me come here,’ like completely bombarded them to give me a shot,” Merrill said. “I ended up doing a camp here, and everything fell into place. So it’s kind of a weird, winding road but that’s how I ended up here.”
Her favorite aspect of Chicago isn’t the shopping or the beach. Instead, it’s the skyline. She admires the view on Lake Shore Drive each time she makes the trip.
“I’ve never thought of Minneapolis as a small city until I came here,” Merrill said. “I’ve spent a year here. There’s buildings you’ve seen when you drive that road and I’ve driven that road 20 times and you always see a new building every time.”
In her first year at Loyola, Merrill racked up an impressive list of accomplishments on the soccer field. In 2013, she was named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference Second Team, the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman Team and the Missouri Valley Conference All-Tournament Team.
This summer, Merrill returned to Minnesota to train, and is determined to step up this season.
“Being a returner, [I’m] trying to show some leadership and take on a bigger role on the team,” Merrill said of her aims this season. “I’m not a freshman anymore, so I can’t use being a freshman as an excuse anymore. Just being a team player and a leader is what I’m focussing on this year.”
Merrill is listed on the roster as a defender, but last year she played both midfield and left forward, and joked that this year she’ll play goalie. She will start the new season as a midfielder.
Merrill’s positive attitude and joking demeanor lends itself to the team’s goal to create a more positive environment within the team.
For this group, team bonding happens on the field, in the locker room, at practice and playing any other sport. Some of the players on the team played basketball in high school, so they decided to take their talents to Loyola intramurals.
“We actually won it.I got a T-shirt out of it,” Merrill said. “Also, as part of being a Jesuit school we focus on community service. We have a mandatory number of hours that we have to meet, but most of us go over that.”
As she reunites with her teammates after the summer, she reminisces upon her favorite summer memory, which is unsurprisngly soccer-centric.
“I think one of my favorite summer memories was the World Cup going on,” Merrill said. “My family went to a bar in downtown Minneapolis that’s a big soccer bar and [it was really great] just being in that environment and watching the U.S. really fall in love with soccer the way my family does.”
Although the World Cup has since ended, the soccer season is just beginning for the women’s soccer team. Merrill and company will play their next home game this Friday, Aug. 29 against Western Illinois University at Loyola Soccer Park.