It’s no secret that the battle cry for USF athletics this season is “Are U Ready?”
But on one field directly adjacent to the athletic department, in front of a net, stands the new starting goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team. For her, “Are U Ready?” is not so much a battle cry but a challenge. While everyone is enamored with the idea of the Big East, junior Casey Garrett is only concerned with the corner kicks that are headed her way.
Two years ago, Garrett had just enrolled at the University of South Alabama. She was a bright-eyed freshman – like many others who move away from home – excited about being in a new place around different people. But the luster quickly wore off.
“The town, the atmosphere, I wasn’t in an environment that I felt I was working my best,” Garrett said.
On the field, Garrett played only five games in a limited role, and after a year in Mobile, Garrett decided to make a change and move back home. Originally from Sarasota, the most logical choice ended up being USF.
But Garrett didn’t make an immediate impact for the Bulls.
Garrett’s career at USF had an inauspicious start in the 2004 season. She logged only 30 minutes of playing time and in those 30 minutes she allowed three goals. But her lack of playing time was less a reflection of her talent and more due to perennial All-Conference goalkeeper Breck Bankester being on the roster.
It was Bankester’s senior season in 2004 and ever since she earned the keeper position as a freshman, she was one of the bright spots in a few rough seasons for the Bulls. Bankester tallied 14 career shutouts and was named 2003 C-USA Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Bankester’s accolades aside, she was a tough competitor who played through injury and fatigue. Bankester left her name in the annals of USF sports and her legacy lives on through the coaches and teammates who are still at USF.
It’s going to be a tough act to follow, but Garrett is working on it.
She is starting with her teammates, trying to earn their respect by participating in what other goalkeepers tend to shy away from – running.
“It feels like a lot of the girls respect me, keeping up with them. They said to me, ‘We’ve never had a keeper run with us,'” Garrett said.
Since the end of last season, Garrett has arguably worked harder than anyone else on the team. And in the summer, Garrett decided to battle-test her emerging skills by joining the W-League.
The W-League is an arm of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) that pits professional, semi-pro and college players against each other. Garrett joined the only all-college team and started every game at goalkeeper for the Bradenton Athletics. She ended up recording 104 saves, which was good enough for second best in the entire league, and maintained a 1.76 goals against average.
“The W-League is a league that you have to be a national player or a really good college player,” coach Logan Fleck said. “She played against the best of the best.”
Fleck had no problem naming Garrett as his starter at goalkeeper this fall. To him, the position and the player were a natural fit.
“How tall she is, she has very good size,” Fleck said. “She fits the prototype of a goalkeeper.”Garrett is an all-around athlete. She was the first Sarasota High School student to earn 12 varsity letters. Garrett is also an accomplished golfer and fills out a roster spot on the USF women’s golf team.
“I shot under 80 the last five times out,” Garrett said. ” My dad was a pro baseball player and he wanted me to play golf because he said that’s where the money is.”
Though Garrett is a tremendous athlete, she is focusing most of her attention on soccer these days. The team is going to need her extra attention for their ascension into the Big East, and it’s going to take all the experience Garrett gained over the summer to help her face the stiff competition that the Big East brings.
But talk to Garrett and she isn’t worried about the Big East, replacing Bankester or the lack of playing time she got last year. She has embraced the process and has steadily improved every day, working not only on playing her position but also leading the defense.
Still wondering if Garrett is up to the challenge? Want to ask her, “Are U Ready?”
You’ll have to wait until after practice.