The first time Morgan Marlborough stepped onto the field in front of her hometown crowd, a feeling coursed through her that she still has trouble explaining.
“It was like a huge adrenaline rush. Almost like a feeling I’ve never had, because it’s a whole different level. It’s like your dream that you worked so hard for the whole time,” she said.
It was the dream of being a professional soccer player and feeling the support not only of her friends and family, but of the city she grew up in.
As a high school soccer player at Lee’s Summit North, Marlborough, 23, recorded 232 goals in four years, breaking a Missouri state record. After playing her first three years of college soccer at Nebraska, she transferred to Santa Clara for her final year. As a senior, she played in all 22 games and was second on the team with 36 points and 15 goals.
She was drafted in January in the second round, 12th overall, by FC Kansas City in the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League Draft. Since donning a Blues uniform, Marlborough has played in seven games and started one for a total of 144 minutes while scoring one goal.
She was joined by fellow Kansas City area natives Mandy Laddish and Frances Silva, who have been drafted by their hometown team.
Silva, 21, a former forward at West Virginia and Blue Valley North graduate, was the 19th selection in the NWSL Draft. She’s played in 15 games this season with three starts for 433 minutes and has scored two goals for the Blues.
Laddish, 22, was taken as the 20th selection after having played for Lee’s Summit and Notre Dame. As a freshman in 2010, Laddish helped the Fighting Irish win a national championship. She has played in two games this season for a total of 15 minutes.
Laddish said the comforts of home eased her nerves the first time she played in front of the hometown crowd.
“Honestly, it was really weird because I don’t honestly necessarily feel like a professional just because I’ve trained here my whole life,” Laddish said. “This is where I grew up playing, this is where I developed, this is where I have cried and have had so much adversity. Coming here, it’s awesome; it feels great.”
Though they grew up playing soccer in Kansas City, Marlborough, Silva and Laddish didn’t have a professional women’s soccer team in the area to look up to. The dream of playing for the hometown team wasn’t there, because there wasn’t a hometown team.
They turned to the U.S. women’s national team for role models, watching Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain lead the women to a World Championship. When Marlborough transferred to Santa Clara, Chastain was a volunteer assistant coach. Marlborough said she was star-struck the first time she met her childhood idol.
When FC Kansas City began play in 2013, Laddish was a junior at Notre Dame. She said that was when she realized that she might be going back home and playing for a team rooted in the city where she learned about soccer, surrounded by the very fields where her passion for soccer began.
“I was really excited because I thought maybe for the first time I was going to be able to have it all come full circle,” Laddish said.
Now, the hometown women are taking it upon themselves to serve as role models to younger players who hope to one day play professional soccer.
“We grew up playing on these fields and it’s kind of what they’re doing, so I think that it’s not pressure or anything like that, but I think we have a duty to be good role models,” Silva said.
Added Marlborough, “Obviously we enjoy playing, but it’s more than that. It’s being a good role model for young girls to look up to and show them that if you work hard you can accomplish your dreams.”