MORGANTOWN — Rachel Gaspar, a 2016 University graduate and girls’ soccer star, was working in Morgantown this past summer when she ran into an official from her high school soccer days. The man recognized her, and took interest in whether she had continued her career in college.
It’s moments like those, according to Gaspar, that puts things into perspective.
“It’s a great feeling,” Gaspar said. “It was pretty cool he recognized me. That’s just a story that stuck with me.”
Gaspar recently wrapped up a successful sophomore season at Division II Alderson Broaddus University (ABU), in Philippi, after which she was named by her coaches as a team captain. It’s a major milestone for Gaspar, who wasn’t always quite sure she was going to make the transition to the collegiate level.
“Up until my senior year, I was up in the air about whether I wanted to play in college,” Gaspar said. “But after my senior season ended, I realized I was going to miss it.”
Gaspar, who earned first-team Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (OVAC) and all-state honorable mention at UHS, proved that she was worthy of taking the next step.
“I always knew she’d be a great collegiate soccer player,” said Graham Peace, co-coach at UHS. “She solidified our defense for us, playing as a defensive midfielder, and she won a lot of balls and generated offense.”
After contacting multiple colleges, Gaspar connected with Christian Materazzi, the head coach at ABU. She liked what the college had to offer, and signed her letter of intent following the conclusion of her senior season at UHS.
“I had known him before, so that kind of helped with my decision,” Gaspar said. “Also, it being close to home was a big deciding factor.”
At first, the adjustment was difficult for Gaspar, as she realized the gap between the two competition levels.
“It’s definitely a different mentality. Obviously, I’ve been serious about soccer my whole life, but college is an intense step to take,” said Gaspar. “You have to look at it a different way. It’s a different level of play.”
However, Gaspar made the jump seamlessly, immediately showing the coaching staff at ABU the type of talent she possessed.
“She came in as a pretty quiet kid, but we knew she was talented out of the gate,” said Jaron Hulme, assistant coach at ABU. “We’ve seen her improve a lot, and she’s done pretty well for herself. She’s definitely what we would consider the total package.”
Gaspar made an immediate impact on the pitch for ABU, which she said drove her to work on her craft harder than ever before.
“I came in and started as a freshman, which for me was a huge accomplishment,” Gaspar said. “From there I started to put a lot more time and effort into it, and I got to the point where I am today. I don’t really have an offseason. I want to exceed the level of play where I am now.”
She hasn’t slowed since, racking up honors such as being named the ABU Female Athlete of the Week this past season, and now, her captain spot.
“It’s an honor,” Gaspar said of being a team captain. “Having the coaches believe in me that much and see me as a figure to lead the team, that’s a huge accomplishment
It’s just another notch in Gaspar’s belt, who, according to Peace, left a legacy at UHS that still has an impact today.
“She was a big part in turning around UHS soccer, and she’s a big part of the success we still have here today,” Peace said. “She really helped set the tone and laid the ground work for our success.”
Now, Gaspar looks to continue to make her mark at ABU and finish strong what is already a decorated career. Regardless of how things play out from here, one thing is for certain; Gaspar is a unique talent on the pitch, and ABU is glad to have nabbed her.
“She’s a joy to have around,” Hulme said. “We’re lucky to have her here, that’s for sure.”