Kansas Jayhawks: Soccer Recruit Parker Roberts to Play with US National Team


To say Parker Roberts is good at soccer, is like telling someone you would be ok with having an extra million dollars.

It’s a given, and it speaks for itself.

The high school senior, who is coming to Lawrence this fall to the play for the Kansas Jayhawks’ women’s soccer team, is bringing with her accolades, awards and trophies that could fill a soccer goal.

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If you talked with her though, you would never know it.

The 2014 Kansas Gatorade Girls’ High School Soccer Player of the Year is as humble as she is good.

"“She incredible,” Roberts’ KC Dynamos Head Coach Derek Shoare said. “She doesn’t make a big deal of anything. Really, she’s just a normal kid.”"

However, you could excuse Roberts if she did have a little swagger to her step.

Here is a list of some of her high school accomplishments on the field, prior to playing her senior season this spring at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park.

  • NSCAA All-American 2014
  • NSCAA All-Region 2013, 2014
  • 1st Team All-State Class 6A 2012, 2013, 2014
  • 1st Team All-NE Region Class 6A 2012, 2013, 2014
  • KC Star All-Metro Team 2012, 2013, 2014
  • Eastern Kansas League (EKL) Midfield Player of the Year 2013, 2014
  • EKL Offensive Player of the Year 2012
  • 1st-Team All-EKL 2012, 2013, 2014
  • Team highs in goals and points 2014
  • Team highs in goals, assists, and points 2013
  • Team highs in goals and points 2012
  • School record 10 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in a single game 2013

You get the point?

Shoare is not the only one to praise Roberts for the way she carriers herself despite all of the attention her game brings. Mark Francis, the 16-year veteran KU women’s soccer head coach, feels the same way.

"“She doesn’t particularly like the limelight,” Francis said. “Which I think is a good trait.”"

While that may be true, Roberts is going to have to get used to it.

Sometime early in her senior season she will break her high school’s all-time record for career goals (she is three shy of the record 46), while playing part time as a defender, but that will seem small-time to the experience she will receive next month.

Roberts, who is ranked 39th in the country among high school seniors, will be heading to Spain to play with the U-20 United States Women’s National Team in the La Manga Tournament — at 17 years old.

While that ranking is nothing to sneeze at, Francis feels like she is underrated.

"“Unfortunately, when you are from the state of Kansas you don’t typically get rated as high as you should be nationally,” he said."

If anyone questions that, they can look to her invitation to Spain as proof.

KU recruit Parker Roberts (22). Photo by: Stephanie Dodd.

La Manga, Spain

When Roberts got the e-mail informing her she made the U-20 National Team, she couldn’t believe it.

"“That was kind of shocking,” she said."

It most likely wasn’t for her coaches, and Shoare recognized how great of an achievement it is.

"“To get in to that group as a high school kid is very, very hard,” he said. ” [She is] competing with the best kids in the whole country in her age group — actually she’s competing with kids a year older than her as well.”"

In the United States, the US National Team, which will end up sending players to the World Cup and Olympics, has a sort of “training ground” with their younger national teams.

Roberts’ U-20 squad will feature some younger players, mostly 18 or 19, so they will meet the age requirement to the play in the bi-annual FIFA U-20 World Cup next year. In La Manga, they will be playing in a U-19 tournament.

Once Roberts got over the shock of making the team, she immediately turned her focus to the upcoming trip to Spain which she will be leaving for on Feb. 28.

"“I just kind of expect it to be intense, but really fun,” she said. “The girls are fun and I want to get to know them better. The competition will be really good, I am definitely expecting that.”"

Francis is expecting that too, and he said it will benefit her once she comes to Lawrence next season. He said she is already a great competitor, but this experience will only help to make her even more of one.

"“I just really like how she competes,” Francis said. “That is going to help us, but also rub off on other players.”"

After playing in Spain, her senior high school season may seem pretty elementary, but Roberts isn’t taking that attitude. She said some advice from Shoare helped her realize every time she is on the pitch, she needs to respect the game.

"“He told me, ‘You have to play every game like it’s the last game you are ever going to play,'” she said. “Every time you go on the field, you know you have to play your best and try to win for the team.”"

In March she will have that attitude with the National Team, later in the spring it will be for the Mustangs of Blue Valley North, in the summer her club team the KC Dynamos, and this fall the Kansas Jayhawks.

However, until about six months ago, the University of Miami was also included in that group.

KU recruit Parker Roberts (22). Photo by: Stephanie Dodd.

Feeling at Home

In women’s college soccer, recruiting basically starts by the time the girls are high school freshmen. Commitments are made early, and that was exactly the situation with Roberts.

She verbally committed to the University of Miami her sophomore year and was going to be a Hurricane.

Then, after her junior high school season, something changed.

"“Miami got a new coach, and I don’t know if it felt like home anymore,” she said."

Her club team then played a friendly against the Jamaican National Team, at Lawrence’s Rock Chalk Park of all places, and she began to think about KU as a real option.

“KU was the first school to recruit me when I was a freshman. I have always loved them, they always made me feel really comfortable and at home.”

"“I loved the atmosphere. The more I thought about it, the more I thought how fun it would be to play at home,” Roberts said. “I felt like it was a better fit for me.”"

She is, by far, not the first college athlete to change her mind, and she said she knew it was the right decision in the end.

One of the biggest reasons for that is the fact she has always thought fondly of the Jayhawk coaching staff.

"“KU was the first school to recruit me when I was a freshman,” she said. “I have always loved them, they always made me feel really comfortable and at home.”"

Parker’s parents, Craig and Kathy Roberts, are happy it will be a 45-minute drive instead of a flight halfway across the country to see their daughter play.

"“We were thrilled,” Craig Roberts said. “But we had accepted and were comfortable with the original decision. This was all her deal.”"

Francis praised the Roberts with their handling of the entire recruiting process, and how they help keep Parker grounded.

"“I think a lot of it has to do with Kathy and Craig,” the head coach said. “They let Parker make her decision, and she was mature enough to handle everything. That’s how they brought her up.”"

While Francis was happy to land such a talented player, the fact that she is from Kansas makes it that much better.

"“Oh, for sure,” he said when asked if it was important to try and add in-state players to his roster. “We feel like we got three very good players out of Kansas this year.”"

Parker’s new in-state teammates, whom she has competed against at various levels, are Taylor Christie and Grace Hagan. She said she is looking forward to getting to know them better.

Meeting teammates is only one of many adjustments she will need to make this fall in Lawrence, but Parker is looking forward to the new challenges.

"“I am just excited to go in and hopefully get some playing time freshman year and help out the team – just take it year by year,” she said."

KU recruit Parker Roberts (22). Photo by: Stephanie Dodd.

The Road Ahead

When then La Manga Tournament ends next month, and her accomplished high school career comes to a close, it will actually be the beginning of new adventures for Roberts.

The possibility of playing on the main US WNT, and maybe even a World Cup or Olympic team, is out there, but in a few months her focus will move to the Jayhawks.

They are coming of a tough loss to Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, but they had a strong season that saw them finish third in the Big 12 Conference. They ended the season 15-6, and at one point, were ranked in the top-10 in the country.

Roberts and the other six freshmen Francis signed are hoping to make an impact, but they won’t have to do it alone.

While Kansas lost six to graduation a year ago, they return 11 upperclassmen, including senior Midfielder Liana Salazar, who is also no stranger to success. She was part of the Colombian National Team that played in the 2012 World Cup.

"“I think we have a great opportunity to be successful,” Parker said."

Success would be nothing new to Roberts.

In addition to her individual, on-field achievements, she has played in a high school state championship match, the US Youth Soccer National Semifinals, and in the future the La Manga Tournament. Maybe most importantly though, she accumulated a 3.6 high school GPA.

And she’s done it all before her 18th birthday.

However, she, and her parents, know it’s only been possible with a lot of great people around her.

Her father praised all of her coaches, and thinks her time with the Dynamos has prepared her well for college.

"“She was very lucky to play in a tight knit group like the Dynamos, it’s kind of a family environment,” he said. “[Derek] is the best at that.”"

The first step for Roberts once the dust settles on her high school and club careers, is to show up in Lawrence.

Neither Francis or Parker are certain exactly what position she will play this fall, although the head coach admitted she’s probably best as a center midfielder.

Whether she will be scoring goals or defending against them, isn’t what she is focused on at this point.

"“I’m just really looking forward to wearing the Crimson and Blue and representing the Jayhawks,” she said. “Because ever since I was a little kid I have loved them. It’s exciting I get to wear the jersey.”"

There’s a lot of people in Lawrence who are looking forward to her wearing one as well.

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