The shots kept coming, the next one harder and more difficult than the last. Ryan Campbell
was getting peppered in the net. But the 10-year-old kept taking it like a seasoned veteran. And she kept getting better with each shot.
When Greg and Matt Baker first started working with Campbell, the brothers saw an athletic, lanky girls soccer talent who was a field player. They quickly converted her to a goalkeeper.
Greg, who is the JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)
girls soccer coach, worked with Matt, an accomplished former keeper, to whip Campbell into a premiere shot-stopper.
It was Matt Baker who would unleash shot after shot – not holding back the velocity of the kicks – at Campbell.
"We were putting different spin on the ball, and it was a man shooting at her not a 10-year-old girl, so she realized which spin goes which way," Greg Baker said. "We watched a lot of film on it: knuckle balls, low, high. She learned all that stuff pretty quick. Once the girls her own age were shooting it was rather simple, honestly."
Growing up, Campbell was a well-rounded athlete, competing in basketball, tennis and volleyball. She had the body type at 5-foot-11 and mentality to succeed as a goalkeeper.
"Matt was pretty formative in my goalkeeping, I would say," Campbell said. "When you have a grown man kicking the ball at you super hard at age 10, you're going to get a lot of experience in. I owe it all the Matt, honestly."
Getting trained by Matt Baker for five years and his brother, Greg, for the past seven years has paid dividends. Campbell is now one of the top female goalkeepers in the country.
Campbell was one of 150 high school juniors named as Allstate All-Americans in December and is a candidate to participate in the Allstate All-America Cup this summer in Orlando.
Former Major League Soccer and U.S. men's national team members Taylor Twellman and Brian McBride will join the likes of former U.S. women's national soccer team standouts and Olympic gold medalists Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain to coach and mentor these promising high school players at the event.
Campbell is coming off a phenomenal, almost unfathomable, junior season. She notched 17 shutouts, had a 22-0-3 record and allowed just nine goals. Yes, not even double figures.
"Shutouts are always the mentality, that's just the foundation I've been raised on," Campbell said. "I get pissed when I give up a goal. Nine, even when you say that I cringe a little. That sounds like a lot to me."
Greg Baker doesn't downplay the season Campbell had but he's not surprised.
"It's kind of par for the course," Baker said. "People that only know Ryan's high school career don't know that her club career trumps it pretty easily. She's won four national championships with me in club and now the three CIF titles in high school. She's only had good seasons. She's never had a season where she's had more than one loss."
For her career at JSerra Catholic, Campbell has tallied 45 shutouts in 77 games.
Campbell, who plays on the Southern California Blues club team, has extremely high goals for herself. That's what makes her so good in net.
Baker loves the speed of his keeper – she's one of the fastest kids on the entire team – and she has the innate ability to catch and hold onto the ball for saves.
"I would just say my strength is my athleticism and my ability to get to balls that some keepers just really can't get to," Campbell said. "My shot stopping, like I said."
When she was 12, Campbell started receiving invitations to US Soccer national camps, playing up at most levels. She played on Under-14, U15, U16 and U17 squads. In August 2018, she was attending a national camp and suffered a concussion. She decided for the time being she wouldn't compete for the time being on any national teams.
"For me, these are formative years of my life and I needed more balance in my life," Campbell said. "I barely had time for schoolwork, let alone my social life. Obviously, the national team will be the goal one day if I get there and I have a successful collegiate career, so I would definitely be interested in re-entering the cycle if they showed interest."
Campbell has one more year in high school before heading off to college. The 17-year-old originally verbally committed to UCLA but changed direction and opted for Stanford in January.
"I've always been a career-orientated person as well," said Campbell, who has a 4.2 grade point average. "Aside from sports, you always have to think, if sports don't work out, what am I going to do? I think it was a mature, smart decision."
As long as Campbell stays healthy, she has a bright future ahead of her on the soccer field.
"If she decided to play professionally, there's no doubt in my mind that she would be Hope Solo-esque," coach Baker said. "She would be wearing red, white and blue. Anyone you see whether it was a college recruiter, a national team coach or just one of us club coaches all see the same thing: she's just better than everybody else."
The goal one day for Campbell is to play professional soccer. When she hears how much her coach admires her game, Campbell is astonished.
"To be compared to Hope Solo is pretty awesome," Campbell said. "I definitely think I can get there. My whole thing is self-belief. I've always believed in myself and I know that if I keep working hard maybe that is the reality for me, maybe it's not. But I know that makes me hungry, that makes me want to be even better. That makes me want to succeed in college and beyond. I won't stop until I'm happy with myself, that's just the type of person I am. I set the bar high and I keep pushing."