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Hawkeye soccer midfielder travels to Germany with national team

BY SETH ROBERTS | JULY 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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It’s not unusual for college students to go overseas over summer vacation.

Iowa soccer player Alex Melin took that to another level.

The Hawkeye sophomore midfielder recently returned from spending nine days in Germany with the U.S. Youth Soccer Association Select Girls U19 team. The squad consisted of 20 young players from around the country and played three exhibition games, went sightseeing, and took in three matches at the women’s World Cup.

“That was my favorite part — the whole atmosphere of the World Cup was great,” Melin said. “We got to watch the [U.S.] national team train … that was very cool.”

The trip was the culmination of a long tryout process for Melin, a 19-year-old from Verona, Wis., who had never traveled outside the country.

She said she took the first step a year ago, when she tried out for the Wisconsin branch of the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program. Once she made that team, she tried out for the regional roster.

The program invited 45 players to a final camp in Florida in December 2010, after which 17 players were selected to go abroad.

“The selection process is such that she controlled what she could control when she went down to Florida,” Iowa head coach Ron Rainey said. “That’s something she did well, and I think the coaches recognized [that]. She just plays, and that’s the best thing you can do at these national camps. “You play to your strengths, and play hard.”

The group, which included just one other player from the Big Ten, departed for Germany on June 29. Melin and the rest of the players spent around a week and a half traveling around the country and played in three exhibition matches against German professional teams.

The U.S. team outscored its opposition, 16-2, and coach Phil Nielsen said Melin played a vital role in that success.

“She was probably our most outstanding player over the three games,” he said. “Her playmaking ability got better and better. She’s a very quick learner; she was great in the first game, even better in the second, and she was just outstanding in the last game.

“[With] her specific skill set and mentality, I think she’s somebody who could go very, very far in the game. I was very impressed with her.”

The trip wasn’t all about soccer, though. The group took the time to see a handful of castles and pay their respects at the site of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

“We want to make sure that we don’t just create great soccer players but also great people,” Nielsen said. “Experiences like that help culture us. Sometimes, in the U.S., we’re a little bit sheltered from those kind of experiences, [and they’re] valuable in creating well-rounded people.”

Melin returned to the United States on July 9, and she will spend the rest of the summer playing for the Madison (Wis.) 56ers of the Women’s Premier Soccer League. She said the entire experience — from the grueling tryout to the emotional trip to the concentration camp to the blowout wins over pro teams — will give her an important advantage as she prepares for her second college season in the fall.

“It gave me a lot more confidence going into this [Iowa] season,” said Melin, who scored three goals for the Hawkeyes as a freshman in 2010. “After playing with a lot of these girls, I know our team can do anything this year and hopefully make a big statement and effect on the Big Ten.”


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