Club soccer experience helps freshman goalkeeper make smooth transition
Normally, the transition for any athlete from the high school playing field to the collegiate level is a jump that requires time and patience.
But Rutgers women’s soccer freshman goalkeeper Casey Murphy has taken it in stride.
After losing Jessica Janosz to graduation, a void was left in the net for the Scarlet Knights. Head coach Mike O’Neill and the coaching staff opened up the competition coming into the season at the goalkeeper position.
Junior Bree Benedict, freshman Brianna Scarola and Murphy duked it out leading up to the season opener.
But in the end, Murphy came out on top.
Being near the top is a neighborhood in which Murphy is familiar with. In her senior year, she was dubbed the No. 18 recruit in New Jersey, receiving a four-star ranking.
An early commit in the spring of her sophomore year of high school, Murphy knew that Rutgers was the place where she wanted to be. The Bridgewater-Raritan grad points to proximity as a key factor in her decision to join the Knights.
Adding to the decision was the level of comfort with O’Neill and current associate head coach Meghan Ryan, who both coached Murphy for four years during her time playing club soccer with Players Development Academy (PDA).
Widely known as one of New Jersey’s elite club soccer organizations, Murphy played on PDA Slammers.
“Mike was my head coach and Meg was my assistant [coach], so as far as the training environment and their expectations, I kind of knew what to expect coming [to Rutgers],” Murphy said. “That was nice for me and helped me with my transition from the club level to the collegiate level.”
Since arriving, the ride has been a smooth one.
In her first four career games, Murphy has allowed just one goal, with the lone goal coming during wash-up time in the 82nd minute of the season-opener against Stony Brook.
After settling in nicely in her first game of her career in the net, things have taken off even more for Murphy.
In three consecutive games, she has been credited with a shutout of the opposition. So far, she boasts 10 saves and a .909 save percentage.
But Murphy does not take all of the credit.
“They [make life easier]. They’re awesome. With me being a freshman, they help with just settling my nerves and making sure I feel comfortable back there,” she said of the back four Rutgers defenders. “They are very supportive and make my job a lot easier, so I can’t thank them enough.”
One of those defenders who has aided the transition for Murphy includes backer Tori Leigh.
As perhaps one of the most experienced defenders on the team, the fifth-year senior has been impressed with how Murphy has handled the early pressure in the net.
“She’s shown a lot for her age,” Leigh said. “She’s very consistent, very confident and we know every day what we’re going to get out of her. I think that speaks a lot of her and how much she wants it. Her, being a freshman, I think the nerves, the jitters, I think they’re all gone. … She’s very confident in herself, and that’s what we like to see in our goalkeeper.”
Upon bringing in the recently-hired assistant coach Lubos Ancin to work with the goalkeepers, O’Neill firmly believes that, along with the other goalkeepers on the team in Benedict and Scarola, Murphy’s game can take off even more now that Ancin and his knowledge are onboard.
“He’s not only a very good coach, he has a good understanding of the position, he has a good understanding of people,” O’Neill said. “So, the fact that we have him and the number-one goal of developing our goalkeepers [like Casey] both on and off the field, gives them the specialized attention that they deserve.”
Murphy, who has just gotten started with Ancin, has enjoyed the early work and is excited for more.
“Lubos has been awesome, so far," Murphy said. "Not having a goalkeeper trainer for the first bit of preseason was kind of tough, but he came right in and made a bit of an impact on our training level and has really helped the goalkeepers a lot.”
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