When Greg Walker first coached Abby Pyne at the age of 9, he thought something special was in the works.
“She’s always been very, very strong. She’s got great hands,” said Walker, a former professional goalkeeper in England who guides prospective ‘keepers at the All-Pro Soccer Academy.
Pyne, a 15-year-old freshman at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, will get a chance to show her talents on the national stage as she has been chosen for U.S. Soccer’s U15 Girls National Soccer Team.
This won’t be the first such experience for the Dixmont resident, as she was selected for the U14 squad last fall.
“I’m so pumped to go play with the best soccer players in the country,” said Pyne, who will head to Carson, Calif., on Sunday for a week of training.
“The quality of soccer out there is amazing,” she added.
Pyne is the only New England player on the 24-player roster, and joins Penelope Edmonds of New York City as the squad’s goalkeepers.
The difference between the U15 and U14 teams is Pyne had to survive cuts to make the U15 squad, but her experience of playing on the U14 team paid off.
“It helped me a lot. When I first went out there, I was full of nerves,” she said. “Now I’m going back out there, so I’m obviously excited.”
Pyne’s squad will play matches against the Cal-South U15 and U16 girls state teams. The team consists of eight backs, 10 midfielders, four forwards and the two goalkeepers.
Walker, whose All-Pro academy is run throughout the country, including in Waterville, has seen vast improvement from Pyne.
“She’s been superb at standing up and not diving too early for the ball,” said Walker, who played for Manchester City in England. “She’s continued to be very confident.”
Pyne and her teammates will endure up to two workouts a day while training at the Home Depot Center, home of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.
“In order to go out there you have to train as hard as you possibly can,” said Pyne. “Once I got picked for the (U14) team I knew I could get picked again. That just made me want to work even harder.”
Pyne is coming off a busy winter during which she helped lead John Bapst’s basketball team to a 16-2 regular-season record and appearance in the Eastern Maine Class B semifinals. She was also second in the state’s foul shooting competition during McDonald’s All-Star weekend.
And if that’s not enough, she’s just kicking off her premier season with coach Seth Brown’s Blackbear United squad, while Mike Nolbet is her goalkeeping coach.
“I have to miss NEFC (New England Football Club) tournament, which is a college showcase,” said Pyne, who also plays AAU basketball for the Maine Icebreakers. “It’s a bummer but worth it to go out and play with the national team.”
Walker believes Pyne will be recruited by the nation’s college soccer powers, and he thinks her positive attitude is one of her best attributes.
“She’s not big-headed, she doesn’t have an ego. She’s great with the other players,” said Walker.
A few of the areas where the 6-foot Pyne has shown improvement include coming out of the goalmouth to intercept crosses and smothering low kicks, which can be a hefty task for a tall ‘keeper.
“Two areas a goalkeeper usually struggles at is crosses and any ball getting down low,” Walker said. “She’s worked on both and is excellent. She’ll put Maine on the map for women’s soccer, there’s no doubt about that.”