No-doubter: Wiley footing the bill for Highlanders
RADFORD – Years ago, there were people who wondered whether Mary Wiley would make a splash as a Division I soccer player.
Before she ever got to Radford University, her travel team coach was asked that very question. You know, the skeptic offered, she played at Radford High School against all those small schools …
“I said I never had a doubt in my mind,” the travel team coach said.
Why was Ben Sohrabi so certain Wiley would make it in major college soccer? Because Sohrabi is also the Radford University coach – that’s why.
“I’ve coached her from U12 right on up,” Sohrabi said. “Mary is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met. She’s going to be a success at whatever she does. She’s going to be the best.”
It’s been quite the career for Wiley, who has played both forward and midfield for the Highlanders. Her senior season is in the process of becoming the best campaign of all. She scored twice in Radford’s 3-2 Big South Conference win at UNC Asheville Saturday. It was the second time she had scored multiple goals in a game.
Wiley, a co-captain and one of only three seniors for the Highlanders, has three goals for the year.That ran her career totals to 18 goals, seven assists, and 43 points. Beginning with 11 freshman year, she’s had 53 starts.
Not that she takes anything for granted, even now.
“We have the deepest team we’ve ever had since I’ve been here,” she said. “Ordinarily, he plays at least 22 players a game,which is kind of crazy when you think about it. We’ve never done that before. We usually have about six subs.”
Getting kind of crowded out there on the pitch, is it?
“This year, it’s hard to know who is going to be traveling the next weekend. Our team is just on that high of a level right now. That makes everybody want to play their best game.”
Wiley always wants to play her best game. She comes from a family of athletes that goes back generations. Her grandfather Allen Wiley is the championship winning retired high school basketball coach at Pulaski County, Blacksburg, and Graham.
Mary and the soccer-playing Bobcats won their state crown in 2007 – 1-0 in overtime over perennial power Clarke County – and thrice in four years played in the title game. It’s the only girls soccer state title for the high school.
Those were good teams. She’s played on strong squads in college, too. The Highlanders are 7-2-1 now and 22-8-2 going back to the start of the 2011 season. They won the regular season conference crown the past two years, adding the tournament trophy last year. Wiley scored in the semifinal victory over Liberty.
See a pattern here?
Once again, she assumes nothing. There’s good reason for that.
Wiley was the the 2009 freshman of the year in the conference but both of her first two seasons were marred by injuries. Last season was only the first time she’s been able to play in the conference tournament.
“It’s been frustrating,” she said. “Freshman year, I get hurt right before the tournament. Sophomore year, same thing. That was even worse. I’m wondering, ‘Am I ever going to help my team?’ Last year, when we won it and I was able to help, I was pretty excited about that.”
The injuries were unrelated. Freshman year, it was a ruptured spleen. That was a result of a collision with the Liberty goal keeper, which gives you an idea of the speed and aggressiveness with which Wiley plays the game. A week and a half before the tournament her sophomore year, she tore her ACL.
The usual athlete’s aches and pains aside, she’s sound now. She thinks they have a sound team, too. She thinks big things are possible. She thinks she can contribute. She just wants the opportunity. To that end, she’s busting it in practice and every other opportunity as if her very job were on the line.
“It’s pretty stressful – I mean, you’d like to think of yourself as the best for the position, but any day of the week, I
could have a bad practice, and there goes your spot.”
Sohrabi smiled faintly when that conversation was related.
“We want our training sessions to be competitive. I feel like we’re deeper as a team than we have been for a while.”
It’s just one more source of motivation for a terrific player. Not that she needs an extra spark. She’ll manufacture her own. That’s what she does. The mentality carries over to other ventures. She was on the NSCAA All-East Academic squad lastyear. Next academic challenge she’s gunning for are studies to be a chiropractor.
No wonder she’s a team captain along with Blacksburg’s Megan Rhodes and Che’ Brown and a born leader.
“She’s become a better leader this year,” Sohrabi said. “She’s doing a good job of being relatable to the players and the players I think feel comfortable coming to her. She also expects the world out of them because she expects the world out of herself in training and everything else. That’s why our training sessions are the way they are.
“A lot of what we do stems from how Mary is.”
By Ray Cox
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
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