Credit: Shane Lardinois
Cameron Castleberry spent the first 21 years of her life living and playing soccer in her home state of North Carolina. In March, she’ll be embarking on a new adventure in the Washington, D.C. area to pursue her dream of playing professional soccer.
North Carolina is not a bad place to grow up if you’re a young soccer player looking to take things to the next level. After learning the game and playing in the ECNL system as a youth player, Castleberry was offered a spot on the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill team to play for one of the best colleges in the nation.
Even in her freshman year, she knew UNC was the place for her. She netted her first college goal against Duke University just 33 seconds after subbing into the match, which she still calls one of the best moments of her college career.
“One of my favorite memories from college was scoring my very first goal against the Duke Blue Devils as a freshman on Halloween night,” Castleberry recalls. “They are a huge rival that I really wanted to beat. It was definitely a night to remember.”
That first goal against Duke was just the beginning of a formative four years in Chapel Hill. UNC head coach Anson Dorrance is a 22-time NCAA Champion and one of the most successful coaches in women’s soccer history at any level. Players such as Mia Hamm, Heather O’Reilly, and Crystal Dunn have gone through the most decorated program in NCAA women’s soccer history.
“Playing at UNC where there is such a storied soccer legacy was an unbelievable experience,” said Castleberry. “The spoken and unspoken expectations surrounding our team always brought out the best competition in players – driving everyone to be their best every single day. I believe training and developing in that fast-paced environment provided great preparation for the next level.”
Castleberry learned a little more about where that next level would be while watching the 2017 NWSL College Draft with some of her UNC teammates back in Chapel Hill. It was a four hour wait but all worth it when she heard her name announced as the No. 36 overall pick to the Washington Spirit.
“It was a surreal feeling to hear my name called out,” she said. “I think my jaw dropped, and I just couldn’t believe what I’d heard.”
When the Raleigh native begins preseason with the Spirit in March, she will be embarking on a new chapter in her life, both in and out of soccer. Castleberry is poised to embrace all aspects of her new journey.
“I’m really looking forward to absorbing as much culture as possible,” said Castleberry on life outside of soccer. “D.C. is such a diverse and active city, so I’m looking forward to the newness of the experience, especially having never lived outside of North Carolina.”
Of course, soccer will be Castleberry’s main focus, and just as when she was a freshman at UNC, the rookie will be taking 2017 to find her place on the team. She is excited to contribute in any way she can.
“On the field I will bring my speed and work ethic,” she said. “I will always bring my positive attitude and commitment to the team’s goals. I am so grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to get started.”
Rookie Four Fun Facts:
Favorite soccer player: “Messi. Not a very original answer but his ability to carve players and finish is unmatched and so much fun to watch!”
Favorite non-soccer athlete: “Steph Curry”
Nickname: “Most people call me Cam”
If you could have lunch with any three people, who would they be? “Jesus, Neil Armstrong, and Jimmy Fallon”
The Spirit’s preseason will start on March 18 against Penn State University, followed by the club’s first visit to play a game in the Commonwealth of Virginia March 25, then returning to the SoccerPlex for two more matches prior to their 5th NWSL season. Preseason tickets for three games are free, with tickets to the March 25 match $10. 2017 Season Tickets include all preseason games and are available now by calling 301-591-0927 or visiting our website.