After turning in outstanding careers at Granite City High School and Stetson University, Tessa Gavilsky wasn't planning on giving up on soccer.
"I knew I wanted to try to play professionally and was just hoping I could get the chance," Gavilsky said.
After graduating from Stetson in 2011, Gavilsky decided to play professional soccer in Europe. She is playing in her fourth year in Sweden after playing one year in Finland.
Gavilsky plays for the Mallbackens IF, a football club established in 1942 that been playing in the women's premier division, which is called Damallasvenskan, since 1986. Damallasvenskan is one of the top women's leagues in the world with players such as Marta, Anja Mittag and Ramona Bachmann. Marta and Bachmann play for FC Rosengard and Mittag plays for Paris-Saint Germain.
Gavilsky is the only American on the Mallbackens squad, coached by Stefan Johansson.
"I love it here because it gives me the chance to do what I love at a high level," Gavilsky said. "Soccer is a culture over here in Europe. It is a different style of play here and I love that."
Gavilsky said she got interested in playing soccer overseas after talking with Kat Tarr, a teammate from her former club team, River Cities FC.
"She found me a team in Finland and I went there and ever since I've been in Sweden," Gavilsky said.
Gavilsky has been playing soccer since she was 5. When she was 8, Gavilsky joined the Metro United select team.
Gavilsky graduated from Granite City in 2007. During her four-year soccer career with the Warriors, Gavilsky finished with 57 goals and 64 assists, earned all-state honors twice, all-Southwestern Conference three times, received the Gatorade Illinois Girls Soccer Player of the Year award and was named on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Adidas Girls High School All-America team. She also helped the Warriors place third in the state tournament as a senior.
Gavilsky also played tennis and basketball at Granite City and was named to the all-league team twice in each of those sports.
Gavilsky played with the Stetson women's soccer team all four years. In her freshman year, Gavilsky was named on the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman team. The next year, she earned the Atlantic Sun Conference Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first Stetson player to achieve that honor.
Gavilsky finished her college soccer career as Stetson's all-time leading scorer with 97 points. She's first in goals with 34 and assists with 29. In her junior year, Gavilsky set a single-season record in points with 30. Gavilsky earned first-team all-conference honors a school-record three times.
"I loved Stetson, and that is where I met my fiancé (Frank Florio)," Gavilsky said.
During her professional career overseas, Gavilsky had her share of injuries, having three knee surgeries.
"I usually come home every October-January," Gavilsky said. "I have come home in the summers sometimes because of knee injuries and surgeries."
Gavilsky said despite the injuries, she continues to enjoy playing soccer in Europe.
"It feels great to represent Granite City, which is a huge soccer town," the former Granite City standout said. "Europe is huge for soccer and I wish people back in the U.S. supported it more and knew about it more."
Gavilsky lives in Sunne, a town of 4,931 residents in Sweden's Varmland province.
"My town is very small, so I can focus on soccer and be with my teammates a lot," Gavilsky said.
Gavilsky said she has big plans for the future.
"In the future, I plan to become a nurse practitioner,” Gavilsky said. "I have a degree in integrative health science, but I hope to continue my education after I am done overseas. Right now, I am in Sweden and will come back home in September for my wedding. Then I come back here for the last month of the season. I will then move to Miami with my fiancé because he is attending law school down there. This will most likely be my last season overseas, but you can never be 100 percent certain. I will possibly try to play in the U.S., but if not I will start nursing school next fall."