Hillary Beall had a tough decision to make. She was the No. 1 ranked goalkeeper nationally in the Class of 2017 and the Laguna Beach, Calif., native could have written her ticket to anywhere in the country.
She could have stayed close to home: USC (2016 NCAA champs) and UCLA (lost in 2017 finals) are pretty good in women’s soccer. She could have gone up the coast to Stanford (2017 NCAA champs) or crossed the country to Tobacco Road (North Carolina and Duke are elite programs). It’s warm in Florida and Florida State won it all in 2014 and the University of Florida is an elite program.
With all that on the table, Beall picked Michigan and enjoyed a fairly successful first year with the Wolverines, despite the team finishing with a .500 record. Any regrets?
“I wanted to go someplace where I could help change a program and really put that school on the map in women’s soccer,” Beall said. “I really liked the Michigan program and what they had to offer. I liked the facilities, the school and Ann Arbor is such a great town. It was just a great fit.”
And the folks at Michigan aren’t dummies. They didn’t bring the Southern California teenager into town during the middle of January. There would be no snow in the forecast when Beall got off the plane.
“I came here in the summer with my parents and it was really nice weather,” she said of her recruiting trip. “We met some of the people in the athletic department, toured the facilities, and I met some of the players and got a great feel about not only the program but the school as well. It was just a great fit.”
And the biggest adjustment? Yep, you guessed it.
“Definitely the weather,” she said with a laugh. “Coming from California where you can play and train outside year-round to having to play indoors was a little bit different. Playing in the cold also is a little different. But it was fine.”
During her freshman season at Michigan, Beall was more than just fine. She appeared in seven matches with six starts, including starts against three ranked opponents – No. 11 South Carolina, No. 17 Wake Forest and No. 14 Penn State. She recorded 31 saves, 1.2 shutouts and a goals-against average of 0.96. Beall missed the final three games of the season due to injury.
“It’s always good to play as a freshman,” she said of her playing time this past season. “I had a really good preseason and came in ready to compete. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to play a couple of games.”
Beall said her highlights included the game with Nebraska.
“The Nebraska game we tied but I made a lot of saves and there was a lot of adrenaline with it being my first big game,” she said.
The Wolverines, who were hindered all year with injuries, finished the 2017 season with a 6-6-6 overall record and 3-5-3 mark in Big Ten Conference play.
“We had a roller-coaster season,” Beall said. “We started off with a big win and then had some injuries. We were ranked and then unranked. And at the end we just had too many injuries and just never got it back on track. We were young and had a lot of freshman starting so we have a bright future.”
That future will include a new head coach.
The Wolverines parted ways with Greg Ryan after 10 seasons as head coach and brought in Jennifer Klein, who spent the last four seasons at the University of Southern California, including the last three as USC’s associate head coach.
“We just started working with her this week and she’s great,” said Beall, who first met Klein on the U-19 National Team. “She’s got a lot of energy and everyone is really positive about the direction we are heading. She has a lot of experience and knows what it takes to win at a high level.”
Beall, who is enrolled in the College of Literature, Science, & the Arts at U-M, attended Crean Lutheran HS, a small and private school in SoCal. She didn’t play soccer for the school until her senior year, focusing on playing with the U.S. U-14 and U-15 national teams. She also played with the U-17 National Team in 2015 and played club soccer for the elite So Cal Blues (2014-17).
“Everyone at Crean was great and they allowed me to travel with the National Team and take some classes online,” she said. “I played for the school my final year. It was a lot of fun. We won our league and went on to the finals of Regional.”
In February, Beall was one of three goaltenders invited to the U.S. U-19 Women’s National Team training camp in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. The 5-foot-11 keeper also represented the U.S. at the 2016 U-17 World Cup and played with the U-19 WNT in Prague, Czech Republic, in June 2017.
She hopes to represent the U.S. on the biggest stage of all when her Michigan career is over.
“I would like to play professional soccer and keep progressing with the National Team and someday play in the Olympics and the World Cup and represent my country,” she said.
But first she wants to help put the Wolverines on the women’s college soccer map and help make Ann Arbor a soccer destination – despite the weather.