The uneasy period is rapidly approaching for high school seniors, who are preparing to send out college applications in a process that will inevitably lead to one of the biggest decisions in their lives.
That pressure gets compounded for athletes — at least the ones who haven’t made early verbal commitments — aspiring to continue their careers for four more years. That leads to a variety of factors that get weighed and evaluated.
And then there is Greenwich’s Katie Gallagher, who enters the preseason having to navigate a complicated maze, in part because of variables outside her control.
Gallagher was one of my guests on last week’s Ruden Report podcast, and it soon became obvious her situation was worth further delving.
Gallagher will be one of the captains on the Cardinals’ girls soccer team, and is undoubtedly a college-level talent. She was named All-FCIAC as a short distance runner in track as a sophomore, but sat out last season when she sustained a fracture in her lower back, an injury that recurred and is just about fully healed. How Gallagher’s back holds up is a key puzzle piece.
Gallagher’s top choice academically may not be the perfect fit athletically, and she will be the leader of a team coming off an uncharacteristic subpar season that now has a new coach.
Asked her current mindset, Gallagher said, “It is definitely a combination of excitement but a little nervous. I don’t know what to expect.”
Gallagher and her co-captain this season, Kim Kockenmeister, were skilled enough to earn positions as freshmen.
“It was pretty intimidating to start off with,” Gallagher said. “I didn’t know anything about FCIACs or states or any of that. It was all super new to me. I was like learning on my way but that team was great.”
Greenwich had a good season, then advanced to the state quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Glastonbury when Gallagher was a sophomore. Last year the Cardinals slipped to 4-10-2.
“It was frustrating,” Gallagher said. “A lot of us anticipated going into the season that it was going to be a building year. And that’s exactly what we called it. It kind of got emotional at some points because we were losing games we had won the previous year, but you have to weigh different components. The reason why we lost, the reason why we won. It was hard but we got through it. It will just make us a stronger team this season.”
Gallagher experienced pain in her back at the start of the track season. The fracture caused her to sit out the winter. In her first game with the New York Soccer Club team, Gallagher reinjured her back.
After I shot a cross into the box with my left foot I had that exact pain I felt when I fractured my back,” Gallagher said. “For a month and a half I couldn’t even go on walks. It was so frustrating.”
Gallagher enters the fall with a renewed outlook. She will be a key piece as the Cardinals look to climb back up the standings. Simpson has moved on and Simon Rumbold is the new coach. As per CIAC rules, he is not allowed to have contact with the team until the first practice, so all the players can assume right now are changes to some degree.
“I know we have a good attitude,” Gallagher said. “I think we have a lot of potential.”
Gallagher admitted returning from her injury will be a psychological adjustment.
“It definitely will be back of my head I think,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher recently attended a soccer camp at Villanova, currently her top choice, the alma mater of both of her parents. There are other schools interested. If her back stays true, there will be many opportunities — and tough choices to be made.
“I think of soccer as part of my routine, part of my life, so I couldn’t imagine it if it wasn’t,” Gallagher said. “Even if I did club, Villanova club is pretty intense as well. I like to stay positive, so with the thought process I’m going through, soccer is always going to be there and a part of my life.”