Smithfield’s Trainor signs NLI to Lehigh

Smithfield’s Trainor signs NLI to Lehigh

Senior goalie Abby Trainor recently became the seventh Smithfield girls’ soccer player since 2012 to sign a National Letter of Intent to a D-I program when she inked her NLI to Lehigh University, which plays in the Patriot League and is in Bethlehem, Penn.
Goalie becomes Sentinels’ seventh player since 2012 to join D-I ranks

SMITHFIELD – Make no doubt about it: Abby Trainor loves Smithfield, and she won’t hesitate to tell you that she “became who she is” because of her hometown.

And that may help explain why the Smithfield High senior goalkeeper, who recently helped her team reach the state semifinals for the fourth time in the last six seasons, decided to sign a National Letter of Intent to continue her athletic and academic career at Lehigh University, which plays in the Patriot League and is nestled in the small town of Bethlehem, Penn.

Trainor, who committed to the D-I Mountain Hawks 13 months ago, was trying to decide last year between Lehigh and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and while she enjoyed a visit to Maryland to check out the academy, her trip to Lehigh simply blew her away.

“It’s almost like a little New England school, even though it’s in Pennsylvania,” Trainor noted. “It’s a gorgeous campus on a hill; the town of New Bethlehem is beautiful, and when I stepped onto Goodman Stadium, it was the most beautiful grass field that I have ever seen.”

Not only is Lehigh “not too far from home, but just far enough where I can have my own little bit of freedom,” joked Trainor, but the university’s College of Business also appealed to her. Trainor, who has a rigorous course load in Smithfield High’s Academy of Finance, wants to major in business and minor in English.

Trainor will become the seventh Smithfield High player since 2012 to take their talents to the D-I level, joining Courtney Maguire (Providence College, 2012), Jenna Pike (Fairfield University, 2012), Alex Jenkins (University of Vermont, 2013), Brooke Jenkins (Vermont, 2014), Fallon Greene (University of New Hampshire, 2014), and Jaden McCarthy (Bryant University, 2016),

She is also the first goalkeeper to sign an NLI with a D-I program since Pike, who is currently an assistant coach for SHS girls’ soccer team.

Trainor, who took a few minutes last Saturday morning to talk about her decision to attend Lehigh, spent a lot of time praising and thanking the coaches on the many stops she’s taken since she began her career more than a decade ago in the Smithfield Youth Soccer Association.

She was also thankful to her teachers at Gallagher Middle School and Smithfield High, and most of all, she was proud to call herself a Smithfield native.

“Smithfield is really where it started for me,” she noted, “not just soccer-wise, but I became who I am because of this town. My love of business, English, and soccer all started here. It started with (R.I. Strikers FC coaches) Lionel Delos and Anthony Bettencourt. It started with (Smithfield High teacher) Adam Spring for law. This town is really important to me, and it’s why I’m going where I’m going.”

Despite playing for a handful of clubs in middle school, Trainor was also in goal for Gallagher, which reached the RIPCOA state finals in 2015 and semifinals in ‘16, and she was twice selected to the 2003 U.S. Youth Soccer ODP (Olympic Development Program) national camp in Phoenix, Ariz.

“I was in the 7th or 8th grade and college coaches were watching us,” she added. “It was very intimidating.”

After middle school, Trainor spent the next three years of her career playing solely for the NEFC (New England Football Club) Developmental Academy program, which is based in Holliston, Mass. As a freshman, she played for the Boston Breakers Academy’s U16/17 squad, and after she spent her sophomore year on the NEFC’s U16/17 team, she played for the NEFC’s U17/18 team last season.

“I had some of my favorite memories playing for NEFC,” she admitted. “However, I had to sacrifice a lot to play for the D.A. I was a dual-sport athlete and I had to stop playing softball because I didn’t have the time for it anymore. I had to devote all my time and focus into soccer.”

“But I got to travel and play with and against some amazing players,” she added. “Having that opportunity was so incredible. I had to give up so much, but I think it really did pay off.”

After making her commitment to Lehigh, Trainor opted to spend her senior year playing for the Sentinels and get a final opportunity to take the field with her hometown friends. When the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out this past spring high school season, Trainor feared that it would also erase the fall season, but the Sentinels were able to play in 11 games and end their season with a 6-4-1 mark.

“I always wanted to play for my high school, and I was always going to play in my senior year,” she added. “There’s nothing like playing high school soccer, and I know that now because I was fortunate enough to play this season. Just being with my teammates was what I was looking for, and it really made my year because this has been obviously unprecedented times. I didn’t get a junior prom; we’re probably not going to have a senior prom, and a lot of our senior privileges have been taken away.”

The Sentinels’ season ended last Thursday night in Warwick when they dropped a 3-0 decision to Pilgrim High in the state semifinals, but prior to that game, the Sentinels went 4-1-1 in their last six games and allowed just three goals during that time.

The fourth victory was a big one, a 3-0 win in the state quarterfinals over Cumberland High on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at the Clippers’ Tucker Field. The Clippers, who were looking to return to the state finals with a veteran lineup, had only yielded three goals once in a game over the past two seasons, but the Sentinels took a 1-0 lead in the first half off a free kick by Marissa Ruzzano and saw Bella Francis and Ruzzano add to that lead in the final 17 minutes of the second half.

“We played with so much heart,” said Trainor, who stopped six shots to post her fourth shutout of the season. “The final score was misleading because it was 1-0 for 60 minutes and then we scored two fantastic goals.”

Abby Trainor