Lauren Luckey Feature
Nov. 30, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. - Lauren Luckey helped lead her high school team to a national championship two years ago. Her reward upon entering college: A seat on the bench.
The 5-foot-10 sophomore has been the reserve goalkeeper behind starter Kristin Walker for almost two full seasons. It's been a frustrating wait for the highly-touted soccer star from Hendersonville, Tenn., but she also knows that by this time next year, her past achievements and hard work on the practice field will finally pay its dividends.
"It's been different," says Luckey, referring to the adjustment from being a high school star to a collegiate backup. "Soccer pretty much means everything to me. I mean, I can't imagine life without it. I'm just waiting for my chance."
That chance will almost assuredly come next year, with Atlantic 10 all-conference performer Walker set to graduate following this season. Had Luckey chosen one of the myriad of other schools interested in her, she might be playing right now. But to her, it's worth the wait.
"I looked at some other teams in the area, like Boston University and Boston College," she says. "And some schools in the south, obviously, like Georgia and Alabama. But I came up here to visit, and I really liked the area, the team and coach [Jim] Rudy."
Her coach thinks pretty highly of her, as well. And he, too, is excited about the possibilities with her in net next season.
"There's an old saying that goes: You get some talent, a little opportunity and a lot of playing time, it's amazing what can happen," Rudy says. "And I see that happen often. I think she'll do just fine, I think she'll be very good."
Although she's yet to start a game in her career at UMass, Luckey has appeared in three collegiate games, all this season. The most notable of those appearances came in the second half against Iona on Sept. 7, in which the goalie of the future helped coach Rudy celebrate his past achievements - earning career-victory No. 300.
The historic win for Rudy was just that for Luckey, who earned her first of what they both hope will be many more. Both coach and player would like to see those victories pile up sooner rather than later, but Rudy's not about to bench Walker anytime soon.
"She's done well in games, and I'd like to see her get more time," Rudy says, referring to Luckey. "She does a good job training and a good job in practice all of the time. She's come along very well, and we're pretty excited about her. Particularly by next year, I assume she'll take that position over."
Luckey expects much more of the same the rest of the season. Maybe she'll see a few minutes here and there, or possibly even a start. But she'll see plenty of time on the field after this season.
She'll be the primary goalkeeper during both the indoor and outdoor seasons, after splitting time with Walker the past few years. And another year with the New England Mutiny of the Women's Premier Soccer League will further sharpen her skills that have been toiling on the bench for so long.
"I played in the national finals and in a bunch of different big games with the Mutiny last summer," Luckey says. "It really helped me enter this preseason very confident, because I didn't get to play last season. It just got me back to loving the game again.
At the rate she produces national championship appearances, Rudy and the rest of the team will love the game as much as she does sometime in the next two years.