A Special Goal For A True Student-Athlete
Nov. 8, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. - Even the best defenders in soccer rarely get their due credit because they don't end up on the score sheet. For senior Kaelyn Caldwell, it's no different.
"Kaelyn is a great defender," freshman defender Alyssa Visconti said. "I look up to her a lot. Don't let her size fool you. She's a small defender, but has great aggression and can hold her own."
Until recently, Caldwell hadn't found the back of the net in more than three seasons. On Oct. 7, she was able to experience the feeling after scoring a goal.
"I couldn't believe that after four years I had finally scored," Caldwell said. "I didn't really believe my eyes."
With the Minutewomen trailing 1-0 at Xavier, Caldwell took a shot from 35-yards out, tying the game with only 2:11 to go in the first half. UMass would come out victorious in the game, which proved to be a crucial turning point to the season.
Caldwell, a native of Seattle, Wash., didn't have an average route to playing collegiate soccer. She started playing when she was four, hoping to fit in with her older brothers. As she said, "In order for me to play with them, I had to put down the Barbies and pick up a soccer ball. I loved it from the start because of the competitive nature of the game, so I kept playing even after they stopped."
When it was time to choose a place to play collegiate soccer, Kaelyn knew that the East Coast was for her. She lived in New Jersey until third grade, and wanted to experience other parts of the country. "I guess I just wanted a new experience-new atmosphere, new state, new people etc," she said. "I thought it would be fun to come back [to the East Coast from Seattle] for my college experience."
Luckily, her recruiting trip was a success. "After meeting coach and the team it just seemed like a good fit for me," she said.
Caldwell's first three seasons went smoothly at defense. Heading into her senior campaign, she played in 48 games, starting 44 of them, while solidifying the Minutewomen defense.
Caldwell and the Minutewomen have their goals set high in 2008. After an undefeated non-conference record, UMass dropped two of their first three Atlantic 10 matches. That's when Caldwell worked her magic. After 19 career unsuccessful shots, the 20th was the charm.
The goal led to UMass evening their conference record at 2-2. Four days later on Oct. 11, the Minutewomen dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to Rhode Island, also losing sophomore forward Sydney Stoll to a season-ending injury in the process. Despite that, Caldwell knows the team has what it takes to make the Atlantic 10 Tournament. "We have a tough road ahead of us, but it is definitely within our grasp to make the tournament," she said. "I think, with the loss of Syd [Stoll], we will really need to dig deep and work for each other to make it happen.
"We just need to keep our heads up; having confidence in ourselves is key at this point," Caldwell continued. "Despite our record, I think we have shown that we are a team that continues to play even if we get behind in a game, and I think that is going to make the difference in the long run."
Freshman defender Kelsey Anderson understands how crucial Caldwell is to the cohesiveness of the unit. "Kaelyn is very verbal in the back, which helps us organize, control and work together," Anderson said. "No one gets by Kaelyn; she is a tough and very reliable defender."
More import than her success on the field, Caldwell serves as a role model for her teammates in other ways, from taking freshmen under her wing to success in the classroom. "[Kaelyn] has a lot of talent in the back and uses her voice to share her knowledge with the rest of us," Visconti said. "Defenders must work together, which requires a lot of communication. She does just that. Kaelyn is a great student athlete at UMass and a good role model for the underclassmen."
Looking back at her four years here, Caldwell has many tremendous memories. "There are so many that it is hard to pick one," she said. "I think my first goal is going to be a memorable one just because I have wanted to score for so long."
"I also think that beating UConn last year was really awesome even though it probably gave me some gray hairs," Caldwell continued. "Hopefully making A-10s this year will be another memory that stands out! Altogether, though, soccer and the friends that I have made on the team are probably what stand out the most."