The Orlando Pride roster was stacked with world-renowned names in 2017.
Rachel Hill was not one of them.
“Coming into Orlando last year, late and as a rookie, it was kind of hard playing with Alex [Morgan] and Marta and Ali [Krieger] and all those girls with these big names. It is intimidating at first,” Hill said.
But after a solid rookie season with the Pride – she put up three goals and an assist in just 713 minutes – Hill lit up the Australia’s Westfield W-League.
Hill led the league with six assists and was third in the league with nine goals while playing every minute of every game. She trailed only Katie Stengel (10) and teammate Sam Kerr (13) – the reigning NWSL MVP and Golden Boot winner.
“At every game and training session she is just so grateful to be there and just the joy and happiness that she plays with, it’s inspiring,” Hill said of Kerr. “Obviously she works harder than most so that too was something I really look up to. I definitely learned a lot from her.”
Hill said she’d never been to Australia and she “didn’t really know anyone” when she got there. But instead of retreating into her comfort zone, she blossomed.
“I was just myself. I didn’t worry about anything else and was able to knock in some goals.”
It didn’t take long, either.
In her W-League debut, Hill got the start and scored the second-half game-winner against Melbourne City FC before adding one more in stoppage time for good measure. Then in her second game, Hill scored her first pro hat trick in a rout of eventual shield winner Brisbane Roar.
“I think I improved a bit since being over there.”
Off the pitch, Hill enjoyed her time in the Land Down Under.
“I was excited the second that the opportunity [to go to Australia] came up,” Hill said. “I lived in an apartment right outside of the downtown area of Perth with Rocky [Raquel Rodriguez] and Nikki [Stanton], who both played on Sky Blue last year.
“We lived about 15 minutes from the beach. It was just incredible; the beaches are so beautiful there. The weather was unreal. It’s not humid like it is in Orlando.”
Hill will soon be back in humidity, though, as she prepares for her second NWSL season. The Pride have added a few more big-time names since last year and look poised to build off last year’s playoff berth.
“It’s exciting. Looking forward to seeing how the team starts to gel and what we can do this year,” Hill said. “It looks like it’ll be a really good team. I’m excited to compete for that playing time.”