The Houston Dash is the newest expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League, and when the season opens next weekend, Galveston County native Haley Crain Carter will be one of the squad’s reserve goal keepers.
How Haley got to this to place in her life is the truly remarkable story.
Haley was raised in Friendswood and played her youth soccer in the Space City area. But the more she played, the better she became, and by the time she was in high school, she was traveling every weekend to San Antonio to play with a top-flight club team.
In 2001, her junior year, Haley completed the rare soccer double, leading both her club team and her high school team to state championships. The San Antonio Classic won the STYSA Fall State Championship title with a 17-2-1 mark, and the Friendswood varsity girls’ team won the UIL Class 4A title with a 26-3 record. She was named to the All-State Tournament First Team.
Haley was a four year letter-winner in soccer and two years in water polo at Friendswood, playing goalkeeper in both sports. She was also on the Olympic development team for five years.
She was heavily recruited in high school and was offered scholarships at numerous Division I universities but did something unexpected — she turned them all down.
Haley instead accepted a congressional appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy to serve her country and have the opportunity to play goal keeper for the Navy’s women’s team.
Haley excelled while in the Navy, both academically and athletically.
She was on the Navy soccer team from 2002-06, earning All-Academic Patriot League honors her final three years. In 2003 Navy made the NCAA tournament — a first for any service academy.
Each year only 16 percent of Naval Academy graduates are selected to become Marines each year, and Haley achieved that honor and became a logistics officer.
She served overseas, deployed in Iraq or two tours in 2007 and 2009, and achieved the rank of Captain.
Between deployments she had the opportunity to play in the World Military Soccer Championships. — in 2008 in Ede, Netherlands, and in 2010 in Cherbourg, France.
After returning from her second tour, she was transferred to Pearl Harbor in Honolulu where she joined the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and worked tirelessly to find the remains of Vietnam Veterans.
She also continued to play soccer, this time on the semipro men’s team, the Honolulu Bulls, from 2010-13, which also happened to be the club team of Brian Ching, the former Dynamo star, and current Dash general manager.
While in Hawaii, Haley also got married to Michael Carter of Smithville and started a family, giving birth to her son Harper in 2012.
In June of 2013, her duty serving her country ended, and she and her family returned to Texas, moving to Austin.
She got a job but kept playing soccer, joining the Austin Aztexs, a men’s semipro team.
After several months, to her surprise, she heard Houston had been awarded an expansion team to play in the upcoming NWSL season and the Dash were holding open tryouts.
The rest, as they says, is history.
Our local Friendswood girls has gone from being a youth soccer player, to a state champion, to a Navy cadet, to a Marine hero and finally will now will be a professional women’s soccer player for her hometown Houston Dash.
Haley has also decided that she would like to pass along what she has learned to help train young goalkeepers in both the Austin and Houston area and has opened the Epic 90 Goal Keeping Academy.
The Dash will begin play 7 p.m. April 12 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston versus the defending champion Portland Thorn.
Matthew Hay, a Daily News correspondent, is a lifelong soccer fan and has coached youth soccer for more than 12 years.