Lily Gray

School: Abington



Favorite athlete: Rose Lavelle

Favorite team: USWNT

Favorite memory competing in sports: Scoring the golden goal in the first round of playoffs

Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Our bus getting stuck on a narrow road and ending up in somebody’s backyard on the way to a game

Music on my playlist: It varies a lot but a lot of Taylor Swift and the Lumineers. 

Future plans: I plan to attend college, though I'm not sure where yet. I will continue to play soccer even if it is just club!

Favorite motto: Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

One goal before turning 30: Travel to every continent!

One thing people do not know about me: I really like painting and art. During quarantine I painted four murals around my house! One of my bedroom walls is a big mural. 

By Mary Jane Souder

Rick Tompkins was in for a bit of a surprise when he attended his granddaughter’s first dance recital three years ago.

“You have to sit through all these things, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I know that girl,’” the Abington soccer coach recalled. “My wife said, ‘How do you know her?’ I said, ‘That’s one of my players, and she’s in ninth grade.’”

“That girl” turned out to be Lily Gray, who earned a spot on the varsity as a freshman.

“It all made sense because of the way she moves – she moves like a ballerina,” Tompkins said. “She’s very graceful, and she’s a very skilled player. She probably has the best touch on our team.”

Gray was a tri-captain of an Abington squad that captured the SOL Liberty Division title this fall, and while fellow captains Maura Day (the Liberty Division MVP) and Carley Slavin – both members of Philadelphia Soccer Club’s Coppa Rage U-17 squad that won the US Youth Soccer U-17 national championship last summer – earned more notoriety, Gray ‘s role as a leader was every bit as important. Although decidedly different.
“Maura and Carley are way more outgoing than Lily,” Tompkins said. “But Lily is the one that reaches some of the kids that might not fit in as well. She brings a lot of that to the table.”

Gray’s approach is very intentional.

“A big part of what I try to focus on was including the younger girls and making them feel a part of the team because I know when I was a freshman, and it was only me and my friend Maura on varsity that year – we got super lucky because I had heard horror stories from before, but our captains were so nice,” Gray said. “Our one captain, Emily Friel, would always offer us rides and include us in everything.  Caroline Hughes, who was a sophomore at the time, wasn’t a captain but always made sure we were included and felt like part of the team.

“I wanted to do that for the younger girls. That really shaped how my soccer experience went because that could have been a lot more stressful. I definitely was less loud on the field. I just tried to include everyone and make sure everyone feels included.”

From dance floor to soccer field

Gray inherited her love of sports from her father, who was born in England where he competed in squash. He moved to the United States to continue his squash career, teaching the sport and also competing in tournaments.

Gray went in a completely different direction, pursuing dance and soccer. Although the two interests do not typically go hand in hand, both certainly worked out just fine for Gray.

“I started dancing when I was really little, probably about four,” she said. “I danced on and off for a few years, and once I was in first grade, I got more into it. In third grade, I joined the competition team.”

Gray never left and found a way to excel at both despite a busy schedule that also includes an extremely rigorous course load. Twice a week she’s at Cassidy Dance Studio, taking tap for an hour on Mondays and ballet and jazz for two hours on Wednesdays.

“One of the reasons I really like it is it’s not as intense as some others,” Gray said of her dance studio. “We go to two competitions a year and have a big recital at the end. It’s a lot of fun.”

Last year, Gray competed in group dances for tap, jazz and ballet. She also did a tap duo.

“This year I’m hoping to do the same thing and also a tap solo – when you’re a senior, they let you do a solo,” Gray said. “Tap has always been my favorite. There are a lot of different skills you can learn. It’s a lot more upbeat and it’s so much fun.”

As for conflicts with her soccer schedule, there really are none.

“During soccer season, my teachers have been so good about it,” Gray said. “They have let me not go to dance until soccer dies down because otherwise I wouldn’t really be able to go to dance because it overlaps too much, so it’s been really helpful.”

Ask Gray the highlights of her dance career and she points to the different duos she’s done over the years.

“Me and my one friend – we always do a duo every year since we were pretty young, so that’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “Dance has definitely taught me to be more confident. It’s just a learning experience.”

Gray’s soccer career began when she was around seven, and within a few years, she was playing travel. She has played for only one club team and is still part of the Hunter Soccer Club. She made an immediate impression on Tompkins.

“She was skilled, so I kept her on varsity,” the Ghosts’ coach said. “Each year she got a little better, and last year, the girls elected her a captain.
“She’s a very quiet kid, but she has a great personality. She’s friendly with everyone. There’s not a girl on the team that she doesn’t like and that doesn’t like her. She’s kind of like a glue piece for us.”

Gray, whose brother also plays soccer, saw action at either outside midfield or up front for the Ghosts.

“She has a real good knack of knowing where the ball is most likely to be and then she gets to that spot, and she’s capable of hitting a one-timer,” Tompkins said. “She scored a lot of big goals for us in tight situations. She has good field vision.”

The next chapter

Away from the soccer pitch and dance floor, Gray is active in school life and is the social media chair for Abington’s version of MiniTHON (AbingTHON). Her ambitious course load includes five AP classes and a dual enrollment class through Stockton University. Her 4.59 GPA at the end of her junior year speaks for itself.

“It’s a lot, and I kind of regret doing that to myself, but hopefully, it will ease my work in college,” said Gray.

Gray has applied to Wake Forest, Lafayette, Colgate, Dickinson and Pitt. She’s about to apply to Lehigh, Bucknell and Virginia.

When it comes to choosing a major, Gray is undecided although she is considering psychology. She has diverse interests, and the summer before her junior year, she went on a 10-day sea turtle initiative trip to Costa Rica with 24 students from across the country.

“It was completely off the grid – you couldn’t contact anyone,” she said. “We were in an eco-lodge, a house with no air conditioning. We had electricity for three hours every day.

“We protected the sea turtles from the poachers in the little village. I’ve always been interested in the ocean.”

Because her father is from England, Gray has also done a lot of traveling with annual trips to visit family every year, and the Abington senior lists traveling among her interests.

While Gray’s list of interests is a lengthy one, there is no mistaking her passion for soccer.

“I loved high school soccer,” she said. “All the friends I’ve made, all the connections and learning how to work well with people as a team and how to hold each other and yourself accountable.

“A lot of my close friends are from the soccer team, and we all just got really close. It was just always so much fun. I miss soccer so much.”

It was after her final high school season came to an end that Gray realized just how much she loved the sport, and she hopes to continue at the collegiate level.

“I was pretty late in deciding,” she said. “But I researched some schools. Most had finished their recruiting. There is one I’m still in touch with. It just depends if a spot opens up.

“If not, most of the schools I’m applying to I chose because they have competitive club programs that do some traveling. I really like being part of a team and playing soccer, so I want to continue in some way.”