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Orlando Pride forward Rachel Hill feels confident heading into third NWSL season

Orlando Pride forward Rachel Hill (right) tries to get by Danica Evans during a training session at Seminole Soccer Complex. (Jordan Culver-Pro Soccer USA)

It took some time, but Orlando Pride forward Rachel Hill is finding her voice.

She’s entering her third NWSL season, all of which have been spent with the Pride. She’s also coming off her second season with Perth Glory Women of the Australian W-League. She scored six goals to go with seven assists in her latest season in the W-League, helping Glory reach the W-League Grand Final against Sydney FC.

The match ended in a 4-2 loss, but Hill said the experience of reaching the final was valuable.

“It was awesome,” she said. “It was really incredible. The build-up to it was really positive. Obviously, it didn’t fall like we wanted it to, but just to reach that, compared to our season before was a huge step.”

Hill had four goals in 21 appearances (seven starts) for the Pride last season. She scored those four goals over a stretch of six matches in the middle of the season, then couldn’t find the back of the net over her final 11 appearances of the year. Overall, it was a rough year for the Pride, who finished the 2018 season 8-10-6 (30 points) and failed to make the playoffs.

Hill said almost immediately starting the W-League season helped her move on from a tough NWSL campaign.

“It does help you kind of get over it because you’re jumping into a new season right away, so you kind of have to drop the last season,” she said. “It did get it off my mind a lot quicker than maybe some of the others.”

“For someone in my position, getting those full games was huge for me. It’s just a lot of fun over there. You can really just be yourself. For me, it’s just less stress. I don’t know, I just really enjoy it over there. Sometimes you go through rough patches here and [playing the W-League] really brings just enjoyment and reminds you that you just need to be happy when you play and enjoy every moment.”

Hill, 23, said she’s grown as a player and as a person since her first season in the NWSL in 2017. She’s looking to step up in a year where the Pride will need her – Orlando will be without much of its veteran leadership when players are called away for the World Cup.

“I definitely don’t feel like the youngest anymore,” she said. “I do feel on the younger side, still. I obviously still look up to [the veterans]. Yeah, I feel like it is my third year and there are girls coming in fresh out of college now and I do feel a bit older, for sure.”

“As a person, and a player, off the field, my first year I don’t think I really spoke at all. And so now, you know, just being comfortable with all the girls and everything has helped a lot. Then on the field, I think I’m a lot more comfortable there, as well. So, the confidence has built up a bit.”

She said she’s looking forward to the challenge of helping to lead the team while the international stars are away.

“We’re obviously going to be missing a lot of players, so there are big shoes to fill and I think we’ll be able to do that as a team,” she said.

Hill said she’s already had a one-on-one conversation with new Pride coach Marc Skinner.

“It was really good,” she said. “He just shows that he really believes in you and wants the best for you, and he’ll do whatever it takes to reach your full potential, which is amazing. It’s like a breath of fresh air and it’s really nice to hear that.”

Part of making sure the Pride don’t miss a beat later in the season comes down to making sure every member of the team understands the way Skinner wants to play, she said.

“Just listening every day and taking in every detail that he’s telling us so that we’re able to play the way he wants, even when those players go away,” she said.

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