A former Leverstock Green Ladies FC hot-shot has enjoyed an excellent start to her career as a university football player in the USA.
Last summer, teen ace Cally Salter was offered a scholarship at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and she has not looked back since.
Having worked exceptionally hard in pre-season, Cally was one of only three freshers to make the Mount Mercy Mustangs starting line-up for the opening game of the season; going on to score after just 13 minutes of her debut.
“Overall, it has been an absolutely incredible experience,” said Cally. “The game is very different than playing in England in terms of physicality, and strength and speed, which is something I’ve improved massively.
“The team ethic was really great and the seniors especially made sure I settled in. There was a little bit of an adjusting period, coming back from injury, and moving positions from centre-midfield to more of a forward/attacking midfield role.
“Funnily enough, there was a bit of a language difference in football terms which I also had to get used to. The tempo both at practice and games was really high and, with a squad of 30, it is hugely competitive. Yet that just adds to the buzz.
Looking back at her debut goal, Cally added: “It was a bit surreal! I didn’t expect to go straight into the team so to not only start but to score was pretty amazing.
“Getting a good number of goals is something that is even more important considering I was pushed further up the pitch and playing forward. It’s not all about scoring but it definitely helps to hit the ground running.”
Cally went on to play across various States in USA during the course of the season – including North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, and Nebraska – an aspect of her experience which she is relishing.
“The travelling is pretty exciting as the majority of games are out of state,” she said. “Most of the team are made up of Americans and so they’re not as bothered about it.
“The downside is that some of the longer journeys can take upwards of seven or eight hours which isn’t ideal when you have to wake up in the early hours of the morning. The travelling is mostly fun, though, because usually the whole travelling team are bonding and having banter.”
Reflecting on the season as a whole, the starlet continued: “We started off the season really well and scored a lot and linked well. Halfway through the season we were struck by injuries, particularly in the back-line where we had to shift formation and go three at the back at times.
“Our second half of the season sort of petered out, and in our conference play-off game we lost 2-1.
“I picked up a couple of injuries during the season, which meant that after breaking into the team, I had to work my way back up to match fitness and try to get back into the starting line-up. I think overall I had a pretty good season, barring injuries, and was second top goal scorer.”
Cally came back home to England in May and is working on an intense 12-week fitness programme before she returns to America for the second of her four years in Iowa. This involves five two-hour fitness/conditioning skills sessions and three weightlifting sessions each week to get her ready for the new campaign.
“Next season we have a bunch of new players coming in; but I love the challenge,” Cally said confidently. “For next year, I want to push on, play as many minutes as possible and hold down that position throughout the season.
“I don’t really have a goal tally in mind but I want to get more goals than last year and, with our senior striker moving on, I want to really make that position my own.”