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  • Writer's pictureOliver Hunt

Football and Fishes: A Conversation with OL Reign’s Phallon Tullis-Joyce

If you’ve been keeping up with the NWSL, you’ve no doubt noticed the epic feats of OL Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce. But in addition to making an impact on the field for her team, Tullis-Joyce is well known as a champion for our oceans and a dedicated advocate for sea life of all kinds. Whether you know Phallon from her educational Fishy Friday videos on Instagram, or her epic fieldwork that helped the Reign win the shield last season, the keeper is turning heads all the time for all the right reasons.


GOING PRO

A New York City native, she attended the University of Miami in Florida where she majored in marine biology. Tullis-Joyce had never really considered life on the pitch, instead focusing on the ocean life.


Phallon Tullis-Joyce at University of Miami | Photo by Miami Athletics

But, after graduating she decided to go pro knowing she had a much more limited window for her soccer career. Tullis-Joyce headed overseas to play for Stade de Reims in France. While with Reims, she played over 38 matches and started all 22 matches in her second season. After a little over two years in France, she returned to the United States in 2021 to join OL Reign. By 2022, she was the Reign’s starting goalkeeper, earning a Goalkeeper of the Year nomination at the end of the season.



ALL ABOUT TACOMA

When Phallon got the call about signing for the Reign, her mind immediately went to the ocean. She knew the team was one of the most environmentally conscious clubs in the NWSL, which Phallon credits to captain Lu Barnes, and she was excited about coming to a club that shared her values. The club’s newly released purpose kit is based on the surrounding natural landscape of Seattle where the Puget Sound meets the mountains. The morning after their home opener victory, Tullis-Joyce and her teammates participated in a beach clean-up.




During her time in France, she had been unable to go scuba diving so being in Washington near the coast was a major bonus to joining the Reign. She also mentioned being aware of all the amazing programs that the Tacoma school systems have for their students to encourage them to be more environmentally conscious and she wanted to be a part of that.



KEEPER SKILLS

Phallon mentioned she doesn’t consider herself someone who thinks about the awards, but that if she were to win Goalkeeper of the Year at the end of the season it would be “a big shout out to the fans and the people that vote for that…a big thank you for that recognition.”


She also pointed out that this is just her second full season with the Reign, and she’s proud of what she’s built with her backline. The award would signify that they were able to come together and produce great results. In regard to her play, she described her goalkeeping style as creative and flexible. She mentioned that sometimes she surprises herself with the saves she makes, seemingly pulling them out of nowhere.


“I think most goalkeepers are creative because sometimes you just have to pull out the save from I don't know where. I'm basically willing to put myself out there especially just for that save.”

She also praised the environment at the Reign, crediting head coach Laura Harvey with helping to keep the atmosphere light and funny. Harvey always has a game plan, and the goalkeeper is always impressed with the specific game plans she comes up with for each team they face. She describes Harvey as someone who “lives and breathes soccer” and brings her tactical mindset to the team.


Tullis-Joyce opened up about her pregame rituals which she says she’s much more relaxed about since they can “make you go crazy.” But she still partakes in a few, including taking a walk on game day and wearing the same undergarments for each game. Another thing she does prior to games is sketching. In order to relax and get her mind off soccer, she shared that she likes to sketch the ocean critters that she has seen on her dives.


As far as locker room culture, it’s well known that OL Reign is a team with very funny players, with the likes of Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock in their ranks. But Tullis-Joyce presented a different name when asked about the funniest person in the locker room.


“I think one who consistently gets me laughing like in the corner of my locker room, like she'll always catch me chuckling at something she said is Sam Hiatt. She’s so witty and quick with it. That and her jokes are the ones where there's like more layers to it. So, she gets me every time.”

FISHY FRIENDS

While she impresses on the field with diving saves, her love always goes back to diving off the field to see ocean critters. One of her favorite dives includes a fish known as a Pacific spiny lumpsucker. She describes the fish, adding that divers go “absolutely go crazy over.” Tullis-Joce got notably excited as she pointed out they can come in different shades and even be found so far as Japan. Currently, it’s the season for baby Pacific spiny lumpsuckers, and recently she set out on a dive to track one down. On her adventure, she was able to find just one to which she ended up “squealing underwater” because she was so excited.


Tullis-Joyce expressed that she understands that people are scared of the unknown, and therefore are scared to go in the ocean. With her educational efforts on social media, she aims to shine a light on all the amazing creatures that live there. She added that they have an incredible impact they have on our daily lives so it’s important that we know about what’s hiding below the water's surfaces. She points out that some of the phytoplankton “produce over 20% of the oxygen we breathe.”




When asked what creature Phallon would want to be for a day, the keeper took her time to think through her answer. She mentioned if it was a long-term swap that she’d want to be a Whale Shark to migrate and travel around. But if she’s picking for just one day she needs to be careful to pick something not too small because otherwise “I'm just gonna get eaten. I'm just gonna be way too curious trying to look at things and then I'm gonna be lunch real quick.”


After some debate, she settled on her favorite creature, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp. She admitted it is still a bit on the small side, but it has “these appendages that can shoot and move speed of a bullet,” so at least there’s a bit of protection.


WHAT'S NEXT

She has already been NWSL player of the week once this season and made April’s Best Starting IX. She also just broke the club’s record for most clean sheets of all time with twelve. With lots of teams likely losing their starting keepers for the World Cup, like the San Diego Wave, Tullis-Joyce will be a keeper to watch for the NWSL 2023 Goalkeeper of the Year award.


Phallon Tullis-Joyce and the Reign take on their next opponent on the road in North Carolina when they face the North Carolina Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park on May 14th at 3pm EST.


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