Laney Rouse is inspired to inspire.
From the time she was a little girl, Rouse was engulfed in her favorite sport: soccer. Since she was 4 years old, competition in the family has been fierce but backed with impactful mentorship and support. Her older brother, Jordan, had a successful career playing for St. John’s University for five years before continuing his passions professionally on an international level.
Laney accredits her love of the game and talent to Jordan saying, “the challenges of playing with my brother made me so much better. … My whole life I have really just been following in his footsteps and he’s given me great advice and great training. He has been one of the best mentors I’ve had.”
But, the family was not the only place soccer was important. Her hometown of Cary, North Carolina, is an epicenter of collegiate and professional soccer. Legendary programs like the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils along with professional teams like the newly founded NC Courage and the USL’s North Carolina FC (previously the Carolina RailHawks) were pillars of inspiration for Rouse.
WakeMed Soccer Park, home to the NC Courage and North Carolina FC, serves as the turf for the ACC Tournament Championship and the NCAA Tournament Championship. It’s a place Virginia soccer is familiar with after qualifying for the College Cup (Final Four) at the end of the delayed 2020 season. The Hoos also made the conference title game there last fall.
Now, as a member of the UVA women’s soccer team, the defender has the chance to inspire young girls as she once was.
The Virginia women’s soccer program embraces the responsibility of being role models through its program ‘Girls Can.’ Each player mentors young girls who play soccer and are looking to play in college. This is some of the most fulfilling work for Rouse. Encouraging these girls to play soccer at their highest level reminds her of the mentorship she had in her brother and players throughout her youth.
“When we played in the Final Four, being able to go back there and play on that field was just a surreal experience because I got to be the role models I was looking up to,” Rouse said. “I was able to play in that position. Thinking about the little girls that would come and watch the game, I was them.”
Rouse provides a strong defensive presence for the Hoos. She has played 419 minutes with 1 goal so far this season with 6 starts, missing a pair of games to start the season. Those absences came because of duties on another team. Following in the footsteps of her own role models, Rouse has playing experience beyond the collegiate level.
The defender started her international career at a young age playing on the U14, U16, U19 and U20 U.S. Youth National Teams. Virginia teammate Samar Guidry joined Rouse on her most recent trip to the U20 World Cup in Costa Rica.
“That was the highest level of soccer I have ever played at,” said Rouse. “To be able to say that I was one of the most talented outside backs in the U.S., to play at that level, and to play against some of the most unreal, talented players. … I have learned so much.”
Guidry and Rouse are not the only players on the Virginia team to have international experience, but talent was not the only factor contributing to her commitment to play for the Cavaliers. The University’s highly regarded Kinesiology program...
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