It’s safe to say that Lauren Wade is living the American dream.
The Coleraine woman has done her best to rewrite the history books during her time across the pond.
Starring for Carson Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee, the 23-year-old has fired them towards a third successive regular season title and league championship.
Along the way she has twice been named South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year, scored the fifth fastest hat-trick in NCAA Division II history - three minutes and 30 seconds, was named SAC Tournament Most Valuable Player recording five goals and an assist, with another hat-trick coming in the 4-0 demolition of Wingate in the Championship final!
“If someone had said to me I would have had the season I had, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Lauren. “I have exceeded my own expectations, I never thought I would have won the awards that I did. I was very proud of myself and it only motivates me more for this season.
“I have high expectations of myself and work extremely hard on and off the pitch.
“I always set myself personal goals that I would like to achieve and I can be very hard on myself! I am my own worst critic but it helps me reflect on my game and what I need to do to better myself.
“So far the season is going great both individually and as a team and we are hoping for more success in the incoming weeks.”
It was a big decision for the Northern Ireland international to make the move to the States last year, but it is one which is clearly paying dividends.
“I was on placement year coaching with Global Premier Soccer and I was training with a local university,” she explained.
“They were really impressed with what they saw and decided to offer me something however at that stage I wasn’t really interested in doing more studying.
“There were already a couple of Irish girls at Carson Newman and I’m not too sure what happened but they must have got wind of the fact I was in Boston and had trained with another university. When I returned home they had both messaged me to see if I would be interested in coming out.
“At first I wasn’t, even though it was a brilliant opportunity, I just didn’t want to study anymore. I had completed my 4 years at Jordanstown and was completely finished. The girls told me their coach wanted to Skype me and i thought why not I have nothing to lose.
“After a couple of Skype sessions I was on my way to the States. He gave me the weekend to decide however I don’t know what he said but at that point I had already said yes. At first, it obviously was different and you were getting used to being away from your normal surroundings, friends and family.
“I have made friends for life here and we all stick together and help each other out. It is very intense but it is something that I absolutely love doing, you are treated like an pro footballer and there is nothing like playing the sport you love everyday. As my family keep telling me, I am living the dream.”
After a busy first season in America many would have enjoyed the long summer break, but not football-mad Lauren.
“Yes, the summer was a very busy time for me. I went to Sweden in June to play for Umea IK and again that was through a friend from Carson Newman who played there,” she said.
“They unfortunately had a few injuries and was looking a forward and they had contacted me.
“Again I was really grateful to be given this opportunity and one that I couldn’t turn down. The only downside was the language barrier, I found that side of things very difficult, however it was all a great experience.
“On my return from Sweden I played for my local club Glentoran Ladies and we won the Co Antrim Challenge Cup which was a great achievement for the club.
“I have been playing for Glentoran Ladies now for 5 years to which I have thoroughly enjoyed my time there, it is a great club.”
With her time in America drawing to a close soon what are Lauren’s hopes for the future?
“Short term I am hoping we can be successful in the NCAA National Championships after we were knocked out in the last 32 last season,” she said.
“I graduate from Carson Newman at Christmas, however I have the opportunity to stay until May. I will have a Degree in Sports Studies and a Masters in Business but I’m unsure what career path I would like to take. Moving into the full time game would be a dream come true and definitely something that I am working towards.”