Ticket to ride: Abby Rhodes balances many roles at UCM

Ticket to ride: Abby Rhodes balances many roles at UCM

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By LEAH WANKUM
Managing Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Junior Central Missouri defender Abby Rhodes takes on many roles. She is a student and an athlete, a soccer player and a cheerleader. Since moving positions on the field last year, Abby even describes herself as a defender with a forward’s feet.

PHOTO BY BRANDON BOWMAN / PHOTO EDITOR Junior defender Abby Rhodes practices Tuesday, Oct. 20, at the South Recreation Complex.
PHOTO BY BRANDON BOWMAN / PHOTO EDITOR
Junior defender Abby Rhodes practices Tuesday, Oct. 20, at the South Recreation Complex.

When she got offered a scholarship to play soccer at UCM in 2013, she had to forge her own role.
“(The) scholarship definitely attracted me to UCM because it obviously helped me pay for school and I’m trying to grow up and do this on my own,” she said. “It’s a job for four years. That’s how I look at it.”
While soccer has gotten her through school so far, her real passion lies in cheerleading.
“I did competitive cheerleading in high school, which is like the big makeup, big hair type deal, and that was fun because it was more performance,” Abby said. “Then when I came to try out here, they were like, ‘Oh, we don’t do performance. We’re very sideline,’ and I was like, ‘OK, we’ll try it out.’ I just kind of fell in love with the friendships I made.”
As the biggest female cheerleader on a squad of about 30 members, Abby said she mostly lifts other cheerleaders, but she also likes to do standing tucks.
“I’m not the smallest girl in the world,” Abby said. “I’m bigger than most cheerleaders, so when I do a back flip, or a standing tuck, it’s impressive because I’m not this little thing. It’s harder for me to do obviously, but I like to do it to prove people wrong.”
That’s another way to summarize her career in soccer ever since her change from offense to defense her sophomore year at UCM.
She played as a forward in high school, but Lewis Theobald, head coach of women’s soccer, offered her the defender position at UCM in exchange for more playing time.
Abby accepted the change with a competitor’s attitude.
“Me being competitive, I feel as though I took that as a challenge, and I wanted to do that,” she said.
Abby said she likes defense now, where she used to be more single-minded about getting the limelight and scoring goals.
“It’s definitely a team mentality in the back,” Abby said. “Being a forward was more creative.”
Theobald said it was hard to train Abby to become a defender, but the good thing for her is that she’s unbelievably athletic, which allows room for mistakes.
“Last year, because she has such a willingness, personality-wise to make changes, she really embraced the change,” Theobald said. “Everyone likes to score goals. Other people might not have been as willing as she was to embrace the change.
“I think that had a lot to do with how quick she was able to take a new position and do things. She had just a great attitude about it.”
Abby was named MIAA Player of the Week for the first time a few weeks ago.
“I was defender of the week,” Abby said. “I was pretty excited about it. I don’t really know how they gauge that, how they decide who gets those accolades, but I was excited.”
Perhaps the easiest way to gauge Abby’s performance is victories. She was one of three players to start all 24 matches during UCM’s program-best 21-1-2 record last season. That defense allowed just 16 goals all season and earned 13 shutouts.
Her sister Alyssa, who graduated in 2012 with a degree in middle school math education, was an All-American soccer and basketball player at UCM. As a competitive athlete and sibling going to the same school as Alyssa, Abby felt like she had to fill her sister’s shoes.
“But then my junior year, I’ve realized that I have to make shoes of my own,” Abby said. “I’m not really going to be able to do what she did because I’m a different person. Everyone’s story is different.”