Aug. 3, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina newcomer Grace Fisk hasn’t logged any minutes in a Gamecock uniform yet, but she will bring a wealth of big-game experience after once again suiting up for her native England this month at the Women’s Under-19 EURO Championships in Northern Ireland. Fisk, a sophomore defender who transferred this offseason after starting as a freshman at Penn State, is no stranger to international competition having played for England’s U-15, U-17, U-18 and U-19 teams.
“I am just so excited to see what we can achieve in the tournament, as we've had a strong year in terms of results, and I feel like this is as ready as we'll ever be to really put our mark on the tournament,” Fisk said.
“If we were to play Northern Ireland in one of the rounds; that will be one to look forward to. Not only because we have the local rival competitiveness, which always makes the game more heated, but as the tournament is being hosted there, there will be a bigger, louder crowd, which again makes the game more intense and enjoyable.”
I know how lucky I am to be in the position I'm in and to have had so many different experiences.
Playing high level international soccer has helped prepare Fisk for the college game, and vice versa.
“In England I've been used to our seasons being about eight months long,” Fisk said. “Playing in these tournaments really allows me to keep training at a high intensity along with getting game time so that I'll hopefully be more than ready by the time the college season starts. Certainly playing college soccer helps me prepare for international play because we are training hard to a good quality and being tested weekly in matches which improves me as a player ready for national camp.
“I would say we do a lot more off-pitch work with the national team. We have a lot more meetings in the classroom about what we've done in training, game plans, formation details, reviewing and game footage. In terms of on the pitch, I think with the national team we face a wider variation of styles of play. In college, of course every team plays differently, but playing different countries challenges us differently as there is such a variation with each country.”
While she may only be a sophomore, Fisk’s opportunities to play for England’s U-15, U-17, U-18, and U-19 teams, may make her more of a veteran.
“Having been fortunate enough to have represented England for a few years now, yes I would say I am more at ease when playing for them now,” Fisk said. “However every game is important, and there is always some type of pressure, small or large, to perform well and get a result. When I first started playing college soccer, being a younger player along with the completely new environment I was in, naturally there were some nerves and time for me to become adjusted. After the first couple games I felt settled in and comfortable playing.
“It's a great honor to be captain of our U-19s team, and so I do see myself as a leader in the team, although we have a strong team with a lot of the players also being great team leaders who help me with my role as captain. In terms of my role at South Carolina, I am just going to work as hard as I can for the team, do my part, and I hope my experiences and what I've learned from the national team will help me along the way.”
Although she has done it for several years, Fisk is still thrilled to represent her country.
“I remember my first game for England in the U-15s,” Fisk recalled. “I came on as a sub for the last 20 minutes, and I just remember standing on the touchline waiting to come on, just so excited that I was about to play my first minutes for my country. Being so young, I don't think I really knew what it meant or what an honor it was. I was just excited. But as I grew up, I know how lucky I am to be in the position I'm in and to have had so many different experiences. So putting on the England shirt always gives me a great feeling of pride.”
While she will miss part of South Carolina’s preseason with the WU19 Championship kicking off on August 8, Fisk is looking forward to donning the Garnet and Black and helping the Gamecocks continue a high level of success after last year’s SEC Championship and return to the NCAA Elite Eight.
“I just love the college season with training every day, two games most weeks, and being with your teammates 24/7,” Fisk said. “Soccer runs your life for the fall, and I love it. Being at South Carolina I'm really excited for all of this; working with the coaches, learning, hopefully winning trophies, and just overall really enjoying myself, which I'm sure won't be hard at all at such a great school!”
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