Roller Relishes Return to the Midfield
Aug. 15, 2012
CHICAGO – Rebekah Roller could hardly contain the excitement when she heard the good news.
After playing defender the first two years at DePaul, the junior who has started every match of her career is moving back to the midfield.
“We were meeting on Wish Field after the season last fall when coach (Erin) Chastain told me about the change,” said Roller, who will lead the Blue Demons into their 4 p.m. season opener Friday against Towson at Wish Field. “She said if I come in fit for the 2012 fall season and on top of my game that the coaching staff wanted to play me in the midfield.
“I never worked harder over the summer in my life. My dad and I went out to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and ran three-to-five miles every day. It’s a 1,000-mile footpath entirely within Wisconsin.
“The section of the trail where I live in Brookfield is super hilly. My dad (Norman Roller) and I would run sprints uphill. The whole workout would take more than an hour.
“There were times when I didn’t want to work out. My dad would say: ‘Let’s go, don’t be lazy.’”
Roller was an All-State First Team midfielder as a senior at Brookfield East High School, leading her team to a 19-3-2 record and the No. 1 ranking in the state. She was also recruited by Marquette and Milwaukee with interest from North Carolina and UCLA.
“In addition to the Ice Age workouts, I also ran timed sprints and played in a coed soccer league to keep my touch on the ball,” Roller said. “I competed in the Bellin 10K Run in Green Bay.
“Actually my whole family ran in that race. My training to be fit for the midfield turned into a family project. My dad, mom, two sisters and my brother all wanted to help me.
“There were so many times when I just had to grind it out. I want to be a midfielder again. If this is what it takes, then keep on pushing it.”
Roller did take two weeks off to accompany DePaul track and field athlete Drew Edwards on his Pangea Educational Development trip to Africa. The group worked side-by-side with local volunteers creating sustainable schools and sought to establish relationships with the people in those communities.
Roller, Edwards and the Pangea volunteers began working at a school on the outskirts of Kampala in Uganda and then worked at Fort Portal which is west of Kampala.
“It was really fun, and I did not want to come home,” Roller said. “We built new classrooms, fixed up old ones, did construction work. We built a computer lab with an internet café that became a source of income. The kids had not seen computers.
“It was a culture shock, but a good one. There were no cell phones. Everything in Africa is about the relationships you build.
“The people in Uganda do not have much. But they are happy because of the people they surround themselves with."
Roller stayed at a home of local volunteers.
“One time when the wife, Saida, cooked us lunch, she went into the backyard and killed a chicken,” Roller said. “We ate African-style food with fruit, rice, beans and avocados every day.
“My favorite African food was East African Chapati. The best way I can describe it, it’s is a flat bread filled with eggs, onions, tomatoes and vegetables. It was so good!
“We had a day off at the end and I went bungee jumping over the Nile River. I looked out over the edge, and it was so far down. A girl in our group got up there and changed her mind. I told her she had already paid for it, so she had to go. We ended up tandem-jumping and bounced twice as high.”
The spiritual bounce Roller received from her time in Africa was evident.
“It felt good to help people in Uganda,” she said. “Pangea had come here before, so they were super excited to see us. I also wanted to change my perspective on life.
“I no longer take everything for granted. When people get upset over a pair of shoes, it’s like: Why? A friend of mine recently bought a ring for $100. There’s so much more you can do for that $100.”
Roller is ready to do so much more for her team as a midfielder.
“I am so excited for the season and to see what we can do,” Roller said. “With the talent we have and the way we all get along so well, we’re off to a good start.”
“On the free kick, I tried to find someone on the back post,” Roller said. “Brianna did a great job finishing it off.
"I've always taken free kicks and corner kicks for as long as I can remember. There are still things I have to work on. I try to pick people out where they can get a touch on it.
“I’m trying to be the connector this season and set up our forwards with a thru ball. Amber does just great with that, too."