MOORES STATION — The Sunshine State was living up to its name as the harsh Florida sun beat down on Laura Alleway at Moores Station during one of the team’s preseason training sessions. It was something she was used to, though, being from Down Under.
“It’s quite similar to my home in Queensland,” the Orlando Pride defender said. “It’s very humid, really hot, sun’s always shining. So, from that perspective, it’s quite similar.”
The Aussie has grown quite fond of Orlando, while the City Beautiful has reciprocated with a welcoming warmth. Despite having a relative sense of anonymity, Alleway is still easily recognized while handling everyday chores.
“My favorite thing, so far, has just been noticing the public noticing us,” Alleway said. “We kind of have been down to the shops and just doing my regular groceries, [and] I happened to be wearing an Orlando Pride jumper at the time, and some guy openly comes up to me and says, ‘Oh, we’re coming to your first game,’ like, ‘Good luck. We’re really looking forward to having you guys.’ I think it’s just that welcoming spirit that Americans, in general, have. But I’ve definitely noticed it in Orlando and noticed it in the community.”
But with the long-distance transfer, the 26-year-old has experienced a little bit of homesickness.
“I miss my family. I’ve got seven nieces and nephews — so they’re always a ball of fun — and I’ve got a dog back home that I miss dearly, and surfing every day,” Alleway said.
Alleway understands the life as a professional, though, as she was on the undefeated Melbourne City FC team of the W-League in Australia a season ago. She also plays for the Australian women’s national team.
“There’s a lot to miss, but I guess when you’re so focused here, there’s such a professional environment,” she said. “We’re training in the mornings, and we have breakfast together, lunch together. You kind of don’t have that much time to stop and think about what you’re missing. You just get to focus solely on football, which is cool.”
For the Australian defender, having Pride head coach Tom Sermanni at the helm has brought a certain degree of comfort for both her and her family, as he coached the Matildas from 2005 to 2012. It didn’t hurt to also have fellow defender and Melbourne City teammate Steph Catley on the squad too.
“My mom and dad were really happy for me to obviously know who’s going to be coaching me,” Alleway said. “My roommate is Steph Catley, someone I’ve played alongside with for many years now.
“He’s the same old Tom,” Alleway said laughing. “I don’t really think he’s changed too much. He’s very relaxed. He’s super, super chilled, and that goes well with the Aussie personalities that we have. He’s not too strict and he expects a lot, but he makes us expect it of ourselves, as opposed to someone who’s drilling things into you and pushing you to something. [It’s] almost like he puts it back on you, like when the parent says, ‘I’m disappointed in you.’ It’s that mentality where he sort of makes you expect high things of yourselves.”
Said Sermanni on Alleway’s abilities and what she brings to the inaugural Pride squad: “Real power, strength [and] good soccer ability on the ball for a center half. And now a significant amount of international experience… [She] brings us international experience now and that kind of quality.”
The intensity of each kick and each defensive command shouted from Alleway echoes from the pitch as sweat streams from her brow. Preparation and focus are all that are on her mind now, as the regular season slowly creeps ever closer. She misses her family and her dog, but this experience is something she embraces, as she helps lead an Orlando team into a season of high hopes and uncertainty.
“You know, we’re a brand new team, and we’re still getting to know each other,” she said. “It’ll come throughout the season, and I think if things aren’t going our way the first few games, it’s not to be discouraged to stop watching us or anything. Stay tuned, and those little things will start to iron out the creases … and, yeah, I think we could potentially be a fantastic team.”
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