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Rylee Foster realizing soccer dream with Liverpool

Born in Kitchener and raised in Cambridge, the 21-year old is honing her skills in the top women's soccer league in England, playing for the very team she grew up supporting

She's only 21-years old, but Rylee Foster is already realizing her dreams of playing professional soccer.

Course, she'll have to get used to calling the game 'fútbol,' now that the native of Waterloo Region finds herself across the Atlantic Ocean.

Born in Kitchener and raised in Cambridge, Foster has piled up accolades, appearances on the Canadian national team, records with her university team as a goaltender.

And it's all led to her signing with Liverpool FC in the FA Women's Super League --- the female equivalent of the English Premier League --- a team she's grown up supporting.

"My grandparents grew up in Wavertree (an area in the City of Liverpool, England)," she said, "So it's always been a thing for me to support the red."

If that doesn't convince you that Foster loves her team, just take a look at her left bicep, which is enscribed with Liverpool's team anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone."

She got it shortly after her grandmother passed away in 2013, which she described as a "very tough loss for (her) personally."

"My grandmother was one of my biggest support systems, and where I kind of found my love for Liverpool in general," she said, "So I got the tattoo just to remind me they're always with me."

Her grandfather, a fellow footballer, passed a couple years later.  Since then, Foster says the tattoo has taken on a larger significance.

If you can't tell already, Foster isn't one to forget her roots, whether it's her previous ties to her current team, her family origins, or the region that helped mould her into the player she is today.

"I started out really young," she said, recalling her time playing through Cambridge Minor Soccer, even starting her traveling career with Cambridge.

Foster wasn't always a goalkeeper, but she got her chance playing for a Cambridge team coached by her dad.

"One game, our goalkeeper wasn't available, she got hurt," she said, "And fortunately, one of my teammates dad's was an agent for (the MLS' Toronto FC) at the time, and said to my dad 'you have a keeper on your hands, she's natural.'"

But before she made the switch full-time, Foster says her dad made her play every other position on the field.

"He thought that if I was going to be a goalkeeper, I'd have to be able to instruct properly and know what I'm talking about," she said.

She transitioned to the net full-time, complete with the pressure that she enjoys --- "you can be that different person cause you got to do everything that everyone else would not want to do" --- and it led her to the national youth program at age 15.

Foster went on to win medals at a number of international competitions, including a silver for Canada at the 2013 CONCACAF Women's U-17 Championship, where she also took home the Golden Glove Award as Best Goalkeeper.

She played four seasons with West Virginia University, while majoring in sport management.

Foster finished second in Mountaineer program history and third on the NCAA's career shutouts list with 39 clean sheets.

"Although my soccer career wasn't that long (in Cambridge), I was able to develop everything there," she said, "I started my goalkeeper training in the region, at Elite Athletes with Ainsley Wheldon, so that was also great."

She says being from Waterloo Region, she's also gotten the chance to connect with friends who are over in the UK on exchange programs.

"I was still able to create some great resources (in my time in Cambridge), and good connections that have been with me since I've been playing," Foster noted.

She has been back in the region, lending a hand in camps and attending some Cambridge practices too.

And amid the packed schedule, Foster is eager to have a chance to give back to young players here at home once again.

"I'll be back soon to help out, what ever I can do."

For now, Foster is only one of three Canadian internationals playing in the Women's Super League.

"Being able to start my professional career as a red is remarkable, honestly," she said, "It's a dream come true to play with such a big club like this."

Foster signed on as a third string keeper, but with an injury to Frances Kitching (a facial laceration she suffered in training), the recent pick up is getting some reps as the backup.

The team does have their work cut out for them, sitting 11th in the 12-team fixture, six points on the campaign thus far.

Liverpool's next game goes Thursday against Arsenal in league play (at 2:00 p.m. Kitchener time).

No matter, Foster seems content with training hard and helping out where she can, whether it's on the pitch or on the bench.

"Obviously the goal is to eventually get a starting position and get some games in," Foster said, "But (for now I'm prepared for) what ever I can do to better the team."

"Whether it's just challenging them in goal, being there as a communicator, support, whatever it might be."

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