It’s not every day that a teen hears directly from their idol, let alone to find out they’re a new magazine cover star.
Ally Sentnor, a 15-year-old soccer savant from Hanson, Massachusetts, was recently crowned Sports Illustrated‘s SportsKid of the Year, a title bestowed upon young athletes who embody excellence in competition, community and the classroom.
The high school sophomore — who has already committed to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2022 — dominates on the soccer field, having previously scored 15 goals in 18 international appearances with the U.S. national team program, according to SI.
The magazine’s SportsKid of the Year is, according to a release, “a young athlete who embodies excellence in competition, community, and the classroom.”
Receiving the news from none other than U.S. Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe, Sentnor was in awe to hear from one of her “role models.”
“I’ve been following along with your accomplishments on the field, as many people have, and I just want to be the first one to congratulate you,” Rapinoe said in a video message played for Sentnor.
With a wink, Rapinoe added: “Hopefully you get up to my team pretty soon — I would love to play with you. I’m gonna try to hang on as long as possible.”
Sentnor was mostly shocked to learn her hero — the young athlete wore a 2019 World Champions jersey during her interview — was aware of her existence.
“Can I have that video?” Sentnor asked the crew, fangirling over the “crazy” words of encouragement. “… I didn’t even know they knew who I was.”
Like most sports fans, Sentnor counts herself an avid supporter of the U.S. Women’s team, who claimed the World Cup title over the summer.
“It was amazing. I watched every single game. I look up to all the players on that team,” she said. “… Watching them win was such an amazing experience for me because one day I want to be there.”
The rest of the champion women’s team also hopes to inspire the upcoming crop of soccer all-stars, not only taking home victories but fighting for equal pay for female pros. Rapinoe’s teammate Alex Morgan previously told PEOPLE she is conscious of how she can pave the way for future stars.
“As a team, we are always trying to encourage and inspire the next generation of girls to play sports. And I think that we are doing our job in that way,” Morgan said in July. “We have this platform and we’ve been able to use that and really show the magnitude of the inequalities that we have in the sport.”
Sentnor will receive her award at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City on December 9.
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