Jan. 29, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
Savannah McCaskill had a reputation for a non-stop motor on the soccer pitch for the last four years while helping the Gamecocks win back-to-back SEC Championships and reach the College Cup semifinals last fall. She needed that same motor for a 17-day span recently where she was one of three finalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy presentation in St. Louis (Jan. 5), competed in the U.S. Women’s National Team camp (Jan. 6-21), heard her name called as the second overall pick in the National Women’s Soccer League draft (Jan. 18), and earned her first international cap with the U.S. Women’s National Team (Jan. 21).
“It’s definitely been a lot of fun,” McCaskill said. “The MAC Hermann banquet was just a great experience to be able to be there with all of the nominees. Going straight from there to camp was a lot of fun. It’s always fun to be able to wear the jersey and train with the best in the country. Overall, it’s been a phenomenal few weeks.
“I’m definitely not worn out, but it’s all starting to sink in, I’m just trying to enjoy it before I get back to work.”
After earning her second straight SEC Offensive Player of the Year accolade last fall with the Gamecocks, the All-American earned her degree in exercise science in December. Then it was time to hit the road for the MAC Hermann Trophy presentation in St. Louis where she was one of three finalists for the award given to the top women’s college player. Andi Sullivan of Stanford took home the award, but McCaskill wasn’t disappointed.
“It was a great honor to be there,” McCaskill said. “The event was first class. It was great to hang out with the nominees because they’re the best players in college soccer. You’re in great company if you’re there. It could have gone to anyone of the nominees, and Andi is a phenomenal player. I wasn’t disappointed by any means. It was really cool to be nominated and be there.”
The recognition as one of the top players in the country was made sweeter by the fact that her team had tremendous success as well.
“I always say I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in without everyone being on board with our team and wanting to do the best that we could possibly do,” McCaskill said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to score goals or set up other players up for them to score goals. Winning another SEC Championship and then going to the Final Four for the first time in program history, that’s just sweet in and of itself. So, anything that came my way individually is just a bonus outside of that because the team results are what were most important to me.”
When your name gets called, all the noise and nerves just go away because you’re finally getting to do what you came to do.
Then it was off to California where she was one of 26 players invited to training camp with the U.S. Women’s National Team. Although McCaskill has been invited to the national team’s camp the year before, it didn’t necessarily make it easier.
“Yes and no. It was nice that I had been in that environment before so it wasn’t completely new to me, and I know a lot of the girls, especially the younger ones, from playing with them or against them,” McCaskill said. “The soccer piece is always challenging; day in, and day out. It’s all business, and it’s so competitive. That’s never easy, even if you’ve been there before.
“We started camp off with some fitness testing and when we finally started with the ball, that was nice because everyone was itching to get on the field and play.”
While she was there, she and Andi Sullivan had the chance to watch the NWSL draft together.
“Andi and I got up early at camp because the draft started at 7 a.m. Pacific time,” McCaskill said. “Andi went first, which was so exciting. I got called second. It was cool to be able to hang out with her and watch it together. It’s a humbling and exciting experience to hear your name called. That little kid’s dream of playing professional sports finally came true!
“I was just really excited to have been drafted. Boston will be a really cool place to go play. I know a couple of people on the team, so I’m excited to go up there and play.”
Then it was back to business as the U.S. Women’s National Team had to cut its roster down to 18 for a friendly match with Denmark at the end of camp, and that’s when McCaskill achieved another one of her dreams.
“We had a team meeting the night before about the scouting report and game plan,” McCaskill said. “One of the last slides in the power point that we were going over showed the starting lineup and game changers (reserves). So, it just goes up there on the screen, and that’s how I found out.
“It was both exciting and a relief to see my name up there.”
The little girl in McCaskill couldn’t help but take a photo of her USA jersey hanging up in the locker room before the match. Then it was all business as she took the pitch.
“Going on to the field with everyone cheering during warm ups was amazing,” McCaskill said. “It was an incredible atmosphere.”
After staying loose on the sidelines in the match, McCaskill soon got the tap on her shoulder that she was going in for the first time.
“I met with our assistant coach to get the game plan and who I was going in for,” McCaskill said. “When I finally got my name called to go into the game, I just thought ‘OK, let’s go play.’
“When your name gets called, all the noise and nerves just go away because you’re finally getting to do what you came to do.”
With her parents in the stands, the excitement continued after the game where things came full circle.
“There were little kids asking for autographs,” McCaskill said. “That moment was pretty cool because I remember being a little kid asking older players for their signatures. It was a surreal moment that I was on the other side of that.”
While her cell phone was blowing up in the locker room with messages from friends and family, the striker with the non-stop motor didn’t want it to end.
“I would have kept the jersey on for the rest of the night if I could have,” McCaskill said.
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