Constant yelling from players and the coaching staff echoes back and forth inside the University of Memphis Athletics’ turf indoor field. Brooks Monaghan, the University of Memphis women’s soccer head coach, silently looks on behind the goal line, taking mental notes while Jonny Walker, recently promoted to associate head coach after 10 seasons of being assistant coach, is the main source of the vocal outburst as he tells players what to do in their fast-paced scrimmages.
It’s a typical early morning spring season practice for the UofM women’s soccer team who look to continue improving after a season during which they were American Athletic Conference Tournament Champions and made the NCAA Tournament.
While the Tigers had departures from four seniors, they did have a new face joining them this semester who hails from Mariehamn, Åland Islands, Finland. Isabella Mattsson is a 5-foot-6 forward who has a vast amount of playing experience from her hometown team, Åland United.
She was a part of the club starting in 2016. Mattsson appeared in 66 games, scoring 20 goals in her young professional career. She was a part of her club’s 2018 bronze medal at the Finnish national championships and won the Silver Ball three times from 2016 to 2018, which is given to the best youth player in the Åland area. Mattsson also called up to the Finnish U18 team in 2017 and 2018.
Monaghan praised Mattsson’s accomplishments but notes the changes she must go through from playing professionally in Europe to United States college soccer.
“She comes from a good atmosphere and playing at the highest level in Finland, but there’s a transition for every kid that comes here,” Monaghan said. “So far, on and off the field, she’s transitioning extremely well, and I’ve seen her grow in just the few weeks she’s had. She’s a lovely kid.”
The 19-year-old Finnish international describes her style of play as fast-paced, and she can use her body well to be tough even though she’s of smaller stature. Mattsson also notes she has a high soccer IQ for being such a young player.
Although Monaghan mentioned her first week in Memphis was difficult to settle into, she said she’s more comfortable with the help of a friendly culture here at the program.
“The teammates have been very helpful and kind, so it’s made it a lot easier,” Mattsson said.
The UofM caught her attention due to the program’s success, and she is a fan of the way Monaghan’s squad takes the game seriously.
“I really like the trainings, and I think it’s professional in a way,” Mattsson said. “They take the trainings seriously and the coaches are tenacious, so it’s a good environment to develop in.”
While playing for a strong Division I team was important for her, Mattsson wanted a good education along with it, so she is a business finance major. She also plays floorball and handball on the side.
Mattsson was the only new player to join the team in spring as their nine other recruits will come in the fall. Monaghan thinks she’s given herself the best chance to transition into this program, and while it’s not easy, she’s done well as the ‘odd man out.’ Mattsson is determined to build chemistry and earn a spot to see plenty action next season on this Memphis Tiger team.
“It’s a big advantage to come in a semester before everyone else to know the girls, settle in and show what I got.” Mattsson said. “My goal now is to keep training hard and get a good spot on the team next year.”