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Former Pepperdine star Lynn Williams off to fast start with national team

Former Pepperdine star Lynn Williams off to fast start with national team
American forward Lynn Williams fires a shot on goal against Romania during a game Nov. 10 in San Jose. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

When Lynn Williams was first called up by the women's national soccer team last month, she wasn't sure whether she should ask her new teammates for advice or for autographs.

"I don't want to give myself away, but I definitely was in awe," said Williams, a former Pepperdine All-American. "When the whole group that had been at the Olympics came in, I was, 'Oh, my gosh!' You get a bit of star-struck and then … you try to play it cool.

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"It probably did not come off as cool at all, but I tried."

Then 49 seconds into her first game she did something so cool that none of those other women had ever managed it. When Williams scored the first time she touched the ball, she made the quickest goal in a debut in national team history.

And not only did it start the U.S. to 4-0 win over Switzerland, but it got the attention of one of her soccer heroes.

"It was incredible," said Williams, who latched on to a poor pass from a Swiss defender, then put a soft right-footed shot in near the far post. "I was pretty shocked. I knew I had to celebrate, so I just looked over at Carli Lloyd and gave her a big hug."

The goal also earned Williams a call back to the national team, which meets Romania on Sunday at the StubHub Center (6:30 p.m., FS1).

But Williams, 23, didn't really need to make history to make the point that she should get a chance with the national team. She did that and more with her club team, winning MVP honors and leading the National Women's Soccer League in scoring while carrying the Western New York Flash to its first championship.

"I've been pleased with what I've seen," U.S. Coach Jill Ellis said. "I thought she deserved a chance. All told – and the team knows this – we've got to deepen our player pool. The message for the players who have been us for a while is it's open season."

The U.S. stumbled in last summer's Rio Olympics, failing to reach the goal-medal final for the first time in Games history. And with the next major international competition – the 2019 World Cup – nearly three years away, Ellis is remaking her roster. She's especially deep in attacking players, so Williams will be competing for playing time against World Cup champion Christen Press; Crystal Dunn, the NWSL's MVP in 2015; and Alex Morgan, whose 73 goals in 119 international games ranks second only to Lloyd among active U.S. players.

Going forward that list could grow with the return of teenager Mallory Pugh as well as World Cup winners Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez, both of whom missed 2016 to maternity leave.

"What a freaking awesome problem to have," Ellis said.

For her part, Williams welcomes the competition.

"You only get better when you play with better people. There's a lot of things I can learn from them," said Williams, a finalist for the Hermann Trophy — college soccer's equivalent of football Heisman Trophy — in her final year at Pepperdine. "And I think there's something unique about myself that I can teach them. So I don't think it's intimidating.

"It's more of an honor to be able to play with these women. At the end of the day soccer is soccer and it's supposed to be fun. If you're not having fun, there's something wrong."

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Twitter: @kbaxter11

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