Starr’s Mill grad O’Hara comes home to play for Atlanta Beat

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Kelley O’Hara played her club soccer with the Peachtree City Lazers, the AFC Lightning and the Concorde Fire. She was also a member of the 2006 GHSA state champion Starr’s Mill Lady Panthers and was named an NSSCAA, Gatorade, and Atlanta Journal Constitution Georgia State Player of the Year. After a stellar career at Stanford University, capped off with 25 goals and 63 points and the Mac Herman Trophy, awarded to the best overall women’s college soccer player, in her senior season she started a pro career. Now entering her third professional season, she has agreed to terms (pending league approval) with the Atlanta Beat.

“I talked to different teams, but I started to come to the conclusion that if I had the opportunity to play in Atlanta I would. There is an opportunity to be off the field with friends and family and to also have them come to the games. I think that was a big factor in my decision to play in Atlanta.”

O’Hara played for FC Gold Pride (Bay Area) in 2010 and had six goals during the team’s championship season. In 2011 she was a member of the Boston Breakers and had four goals and an assist while starting in 11 of 13 games.

In describing O’Hara as a player, Beat coach James Galanis believes, “She is very explosive over the first 10 yards. She is very quick and very skilled. Kelley can whip in great service from out wide, and also has the capacity to cut in and score goals for herself. Overall, she is just a fantastic soccer player with great characteristics. She is one of the hardest working players out there, and she is really fit.”

O’Hara sees her versatility as a key part of her play. She played forward for Stanford and has played outside midfield and outside back for the U.S. Women’s national team.

That versatility got her on the U.S. roster in 2010, a 3-0 win over Mexico, and has led to seven international appearances including in the 2011 Women’s World Cup last summer.

“The experience was awesome, everything you can imagine and probably more,” O’Hara said of the World Cup experience. “There was every emotion in those five weeks, highs and lows, and they happened so quickly. It didn’t end the way we had hoped, but I think people got excited about women’s soccer and hopefully we can build on that.”

The U.S. team will hope to build on that with a strong showing at the Olympics and O’Hara hopes to be a part of that roster as well. With practices and games with possibly two teams this spring, there could be a lot of soccer in O’Hara’s immediate future and that suits her perfectly.

“I have fun every day that I am playing,” O’Hara said. “With each new season there’s a new chance to do something. I’m looking forward to building something with Atlanta.”

A local talent is something the Atlanta Beat are excited to share with this community. “The youth in our area now have a real life player that they can look up to,” said Galanis. “She’s a player who made it through the Atlanta youth system all the way to the pros. Kelley O’Hara is a real example of a local girl who started playing soccer in Atlanta and has made it all the way to the top. She just brings so many positives to the table and is a fantastic pick-up for our team.”

O’Hara reports to preseason with the Atlanta Beat on March 1. She will join other recent signees: Christen Press, Nikki Washington, Rebecca Moros, Katherine Reynolds, Angela Salem, and Lauren Fowlkes.

To keep up with O’Hara and the Beat this spring, visit them on the web at www.TheAtlantaBeat.com