A northern star: How playing for Canada connected Hannah Taylor to Oregon soccer
Hannah Taylor remembers the moment perfectly.
While sitting in the back of her mother’s car at a soccer tournament in Boise, Idaho, she decided to check her email. The Canadian Under-17 Women’s National Team had invited her for a chance to play in a four-nations tournament in China. Her dream of representing Canada was coming true.
But Taylor, born and raised in Edmonds, Washington, elected to only tell her mother, Lola, and her coach about the news before telling her teammates after the game.
“At the time, you don’t really know what that means,” said Taylor’s father, Greg, who grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. “You don’t know the enormity of it.”
That was just the start of her Canadian national team career. The now 19-year-old played in two youth FIFA Women’s World Cups, and she was promoted for a game with the Canadian first team.
Little did she know, her performance with the national team would expose her to an Oregon coach, changing the course of her life. Now a redshirt freshman, Taylor’s leadership ability has earned her the role as a team captain.
“She plays like a 34-year-old,” redshirt senior Oregon goalkeeper and captain Halla Hinriksdottir said. “If you just sit back and watch her play, she truly just plays like she’s been doing this for probably 30 years. There’s just a certain level of maturity. She plays like a grown-ass woman.”
After the email, Taylor played in Canada’s three matches in China, and a month later was called up for the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.
In Jordan, Taylor performed well, scoring the game-winning goal against Cameroon. Her family did not make the trip to the Middle East, but did have a late-night watch party back home in Washington.
Her performance against Germany grabbed the attention of Oregon associate head coach Manny Martins, who was there scouting for the United States team.
“I was like, ‘how did I not know about this kid?’” Martins said. “I found out she was already committed so I left it alone.”
Taylor was committed to Seattle University, but she reopened her recruitment for an opportunity to play at a higher level in college. She had Oregon on her list of schools she was interested in.
Her youth coach, Eugene Poublon, ran into Martins one day and the two discussed Taylor. While they were talking recruits, Greg Taylor phoned Poublon to ask about Oregon. It was perfect timing, and Greg Taylor spoke directly with Martins, leading to a visit to Eugene.
She wasn’t heavily recruited, but Poublon felt that a team that used her composure with the ball at her feet would be the right school for her.
“I saw huge qualities in her,” Poublon said. “I knew that she could play at that level, but I was skeptical of coaches seeing those qualities.”
Martins, having scouted Taylor, knew it, too.
“She’s very calm,” Martins said. “She doesn’t express a lot of emotions so even in moments when we’re down, she’s a calming voice. I think a big part of that is her character.”
Taylor earned a call-up for the U-20 World Cup later that year in Papua New Guinea. Then came what Taylor calls the “biggest honor” of her life: a call-up to the first team.
Taylor was in Canada’s first team squad in early 2017 for a match against Mexico at BC Place in Vancouver, making it easy for her family and friends to go to the game.
“It was one thing for her to wear the jersey for the 17s,” Greg Taylor said. “Then you see her out there warming up and you look in the stands and there’s 20-some-odd thousand fans, and she’s signing autographs after the game.”
Christine Sinclair, Canada’s all-time leading scorer, is one of Taylor’s idols. Though Taylor did not see action in the game against Mexico, she learned from Sinclair during training.
“Seeing her leadership and how it plays on and off the field has really affected me in a positive way,” Taylor said.
As a leader herself, Taylor is quiet, calm and chooses to lead through simple instruction and by example. Her leadership qualities were put to use for Canada a year later, but under more unfortunate circumstances.
At the 2018 CONCACAF Cup, the tournament between North American teams to qualify for the World Cup, Taylor collided with a Mexico player in the semifinal and was concussed, ending her tournament.
“I got emotional,” Taylor said. “I was crying that night.”
In the blink of an eye, Taylor needed to take a different role.
“It didn’t take long for me to turn my mindset and realize that I can contribute being off the field by preparing Ariel [Young] to play,” she said.
However, Canada ultimately lost 1-0 and failed to qualify for the World Cup.
“It was really hard because they really thought they were going,” Lola Taylor said. “It took awhile for her to accept it. All you can do is support them.”
Taylor returned to Oregon, where she had redshirted her freshman season due to a back injury. It took her time to get back into the swing of things as she continued to recover from her concussion.
Come fall, as only a redshirt freshman, Taylor was handed a captain’s armband, along with Hinriksdottir and senior midfielder Sofia Chambers after a team-wide vote.
“The moment we were able to spend a little bit of time with her and her family, we saw the maturity, the character,” Martins said. “She’s a captain for us, and that speaks about what we saw in her was more than just a soccer player.”
Taylor’s start to her Oregon career has gone as well as possible for the center back, as the Oregon defense has allowed only five goals in the first nine games of the season. The Ducks have also shut out five teams this season to help jump out to a 7-1-1 record — the team’s best start since 2009.
As she looks forward to the rest of her career as an Oregon Duck, she and her family hope her Canadian career follows suit.
“You give her a bit more time,” Greg Taylor said. “She’ll be the captain of Canada one day too.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow
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