Former Gamecock Christa Neary Earns Chance to Play Professional Soccer
April 15, 2016
Christa Neary was part of one of the best defensive units in the country during her four year career with the South Carolina soccer program, and now she is the third person from that unit to sign with a professional team. Neary went to an open tryout for the Boston Breakers of the National Women’s Soccer League on February 20 and was offered a spot on the reserve team.
“I was totally excited,” Neary beamed. “It’s gave me a huge confidence boost where I felt like I proved myself and showed that I could belong in that league. There was an initial cut right after the tryouts, so those that weren’t cut were able to stick around longer that day. That was on Saturday, and I found out that I made it the following Wednesday.
“I thought I did well. It’s weird at first at the tryouts, but then after the first five minutes your nervousness goes away, and you just start playing.”
A regular in the starting lineup as part of a record-setting defensive unit for four years, Neary enjoyed an outstanding career at South Carolina from 2011-2014 which began with an SEC Regular Season Championship during her freshman year and concluded with a record run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament during her senior year. During her final season, the South Carolina defense led the SEC in goals against average and had 13 shutouts, which was the second most in school history.
“Winning the SEC my freshman year and making it to the Elite Eight were some of my best memories,” Neary said. “But really, every year was great just being with the team. I always loved playing in the SEC Tournament as well. I’ll miss the atmosphere that we had here with all of the fans. We have so much support. South Carolina just felt like home to me.”
As a member of the reserve squad with the Boston Breakers, Neary will have plenty of opportunities to show her skills and improve with the hopes of making the active roster.
“We actually have games against the other reserve teams in the NWSL as well,” Neary said. “So I’ll get a chance to play. I’ll train every day, and I can get pulled up to the senior squad to play. You can go up and down. The training is every morning, five days per week.”
Winning the SEC my freshman year and making it to the Elite Eight were some of my best memories.Christa Neary
Neary had no problem finding a way to make it work, on and off the field, during her collegiate career. She was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll all four years while playing and earned her degree in psychology last December. She is appreciative of head coach Shelley Smith, associate head coach Jamie Smith, and the rest of the staff for helping her develop so that she would have a chance to play professionally.
“Jamie and Shelley have been preparing me for this, especially over the last year,” Neary said. “I’ve been training with them. They really helped me a lot. From a mentality standpoint, they taught me to always be prepared and to know the level of the players around you. Jamie and Shelley and (former assistant coach) Libby (Bassett) taught me to always work as hard as you can, and to keep working every day so that eventually, the reward will come. That helped me prepare for these tryouts.”
Former teammate, goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, is also in the NWSL, playing her second season with the Western New York Flash, while fellow defender and teammate Taylor Leach, who was on the reserve team with the Flash last year is now playing professionally in Sweden. A former club teammate from her high school days also made the reserve team, so Neary will at least have a few familiar faces around during her rookie year. A native of West Deptford, N.J., Neary is glad to be a little closer to home.
“I’m excited to be in Boston,” Neary said. “It’s a great city. It hasn’t hit me yet that I’m moving forward with this step. This is a foot in the door for me. I think starting out on the reserve team will get me the experience I need to be ready if I get pulled up.”
Neary reports to the team on May 2.