Megan Manthey has always pursued her dream of becoming a professional soccer player - no matter where in the world that dream has taken her.
Between her decision to leave Ferndale High School at 16 following her sophomore year in 2003 to take advantage of a soccer scholarship opportunity at the Elite International Management Group School in Bradenton, Fla., to her decision to transfer from Colorado University to College of Charleston in search of a better opportunity to her three years spent playing soccer in Denmark, Manthey has done what's necessary to make her dream come true.
The well-traveled Whatcom County native is spending this summer at home for the first time in eight years. She has family in both Blaine and Ferndale. It's the first time she's been back for an extended stay since she left Ferndale High to go to the opposite corner of the U.S.
"It was just fun walking out there thinking about how many hours of my life and weekends I've spent there," said Manthey about a recent trip she took to Northwest Soccer Park to work on her game.
Manthey isn't getting too comfortable back home, however.
The 5-foot-7 forward/mid is preparing for a nine-month-long season playing for France's AS Saint-Etienne of the Division 1 Feminine - the top women's soccer league in France.
"I'm really excited, and I arrive next Thursday (Aug. 9)," Manthey said. "That's the first day everyone will be together on the team, so I won't miss too much. This team is going to be fun to play with. The men's club is one of the favorite clubs in France."
Manthey will face some of best competition the world has to offer, but it's been a long journey to get to where she is today.
Manthey finished her final season at College of Charleston in South Carolina as the Big South conference leader in points with 34. After exploring soccer options in Europe, upon completion of her schooling, she received a call to try out for a Denmark team called Fortuna Hjorring.
She played three seasons with the Denmark club, helping Fortuna Hjorring to three Danish championships.
"In Denmark, I kind of didn't know what to expect as far as what it's like to live abroad," Manthey said. "Along with day-to-day things, you have to figure out how to communicate with people, like what a casual conversation is like with the cashier at a grocery store. It's a daily adventure, and you never know what you are going to get. I know better now how the club system works and how to be a professional. It's not the three to four months the U.S. soccer season has. It's a nine-month-long season."
Besides winning three titles, Fortuna Hjorring qualified for the UEFA Women's Championship League - a league composed of the best clubs in Europe.
Manthey said it was one of the best experiences of her career.
"That was pretty cool," she said. "I've always watched the men's European (Championship League) games, and you know how they bring out everyone (before the match) and sing the national anthems, they did the same thing for us. We played in big venues. It was kind of a surreal experience. I was thinking, 'this is what I've always dreamed of.'"
Following her third season with Fortuna Hjorring, Manthey moved to an area she thought soccer would never take her - back to the Evergreen state.
"My contract finished with Denmark in December (2011)," Manthey said. " After that, I started looking for a new team to play with. I was trying to get on with the WPS (Women's Professional Soccer based in the U.S.), but the season got suspended. I hadn't had anymore contact with teams overseas. (Europe) was my first choice, but I didn't have any leads. The Sounders were coming up with big name players, so I thought it would be a good place for me to be. It's really funny. I never thought I would play back in this area."
Due to the suspension of 2012 WPS, which has now folded as a league completely, many top American soccer talents flooded W League rosters to play for teams such as the Seattle Sounders Women.
Among those Manthey has played with this season are U.S. National team members Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe. Solo is widely regarded as the best keeper in the women's game today. Morgan and Rapinoe both were key contributors to the United States' second-place finish during the 2011 FIFA World Cup.
"Definitely one of the highlights of my career is just getting to be able to play alongside them," Manthey said. "I've got to play with them and score a goal with them on the field. It was just a cool career experience."
Manthey doesn't have a specific goal for her soccer future. She said she'll play the sport as long as she loves heading to the field everyday.
"Right now, I just want to continue to develop as a player," Manthey said. "As long as I keep getting playing time, there's a reason to keep playing and enjoy what I'm doing. When it starts being a grind and you don't look forward to practice, you don't want to leave with a bad taste in your mouth. Every country has a new style of how they want to do things, and that makes me more versatile of a player. I just want to be able to offer what I can bring to a team to help them improve in the standings."
Manthey's passion for the game isn't the only reason she chooses to live out her dream. She hopes she can serve as a strong role model for girls who aspire to reach their goals, as well.
"One of the goals of me continuing to play and pursue a career is so that younger kids have a good female example of an athlete," Manthey said. "I try to carry myself with integrity, and I want to show girls to set lofty goals and fight for them."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.