Sophomore Ava Relihan gets a kick start on the college recruiting process


Courtesy of Ava Relihan

Center back Ava Relihan passes to her teammate during her showcase. Relihan traveled to California in hope of getting noticed by college recruiters. “My dad and I would say before games you never know who’s watching, so I just go out there and play my best,” Relihan said.

As a freshman in high school, Ava Relihan began the journey, so many athletes navigate the recruiting process. Today, as a sophomore, she continues to make sacrifices to achieve her dreams of becoming a Division l soccer player.

Relihan started soccer 10 years ago after getting bullied at school. While she began to the sport as a way to make friends, it soon turned into a passion and a time-consuming one. She now plays for St. Louis Scott Gallagher’s Green 2006 Elite Club National League team and her position as the school’s starting varsity center-back.

“When I was eight, I realized soccer is what I wanted to do. But, I’ve missed so many social opportunities. I wasn’t the one you’d see at every single football game. I’ve had to say no to friendships because they’ve been toxic in a way where they don’t support my soccer. So, I’ve had to find what’s best for me, and I’ve had to put things aside. It’s difficult and a balancing act for sure,” Relihan said.

Between constant practices for basketball, soccer and jazz choir, traveling for showcases, sending emails and putting together highlight videos for college recruiting, Relihan struggles to find time to manage everything.

“It’s very time-consuming and a lot of work. I don’t think people realize what it’s like. I’ll be in the locker room doing my homework, I put my phone away, and I do all of my work and try to get ahead. When I’m on trips, I take time in the car or in the hotel room to get my stuff done,” Relihan said. 

Relihan spends lots of time off the field working on the recruiting process to play for one of her dream schools like the University of Michigan, University of Illinois, or University of Iowa. One major part of this process is sending emails; something Relihan has done to about 100 SEC, Big 10 and PAC-12 schools. 

“I’d say my mom has really helped me, and I really appreciate all of the help my parents have given me through the process. For emails, you have to focus on editing and everything, making sure it’s perfect because you also want to showcase your educational abilities. It’s not just the athletic team; it’s the school that has to accept you as well,” Relihan said.

Last spring, Relihan was the only freshman to make the roster for the girl’s varsity soccer team.

“It’s difficult, but I just had to match their physicality. They’re bigger and stronger, and as a freshman, I had to show up and adapt to the physicality level, match it, and go above with it,” Relihan said.

Relihan considers herself lucky, as she receives support and assistance from her coaches, teachers and family. 

“It’s worth it because when I look back at when I was eight, and I think of all of the remarkable milestones that I’ve been through for soccer, and I always like to think of that little girl who had a dream. Anytime it gets rough, I just think about her. Play for her. That’s who you’re doing it for,” Relihan said.