STORRS — Heidi Druehl and Liane Keegans, two freshmen defenders on the University of Connecticut women’s soccer team, initially knew of each other before becoming collegiate teammates from their years of playing against each other in high school, for Westhill and Ridgefield, respectively.
“I just knew her as the really good center back with the long throw-in on Ridgefield,” Druehl said.
“I had never met her, but I knew who she was,” Keegans said.”
After stellar careers in high school — both earned All-FCIAC and All-State honors — the two joined forces at UConn, where they are seeing minutes and have helped the No. 18-ranked Huskies jump out to an impressive 12-2 start, 7-0 at home.
“It’s been really exciting,” Keegans said. “We have a strong group of girls here. I’m excited to see how I continue to develop as a player, getting the experience to play in games that I have been playing in.”
Keegans, who has been playing soccer since she was four years old, couldn’t imagine not continuing to play soccer at the collegiate level.
“Not playing in college was never an option for me,” she noted.
After moving to Connecticut from Chesterfield, Mo., Keegans came to Ridgefield, made a recent position switch to defense and ran with it. It led to many honors, including Ridgefield’s Gold Scholar Athlete title as a senior.
From there she toured UConn because of its proximity to the area, and immediately realized it was a perfect fit.
“I knew it’s where I wanted to be, it just felt right,” she said.
She went on her official visit and that is where she met Druehl for the first time despite playing against her for just over a year.
“Heidi is a talented player. I love having her on my team instead of playing against her,” she said. “We played her team all three times after our official, so it was kind of neat having actually met her, and then playing against her.”
Druehl, a four-year varsity standout at Westhill, made a huge impact on not only her high school team, but also her club teams. She was a four-time All-FCIAC honoree and she helped the New York Rush Patriots as well as Beachside Soccer Club win three state titles collectively.
“My high school career was filled with so many great moments,” she said. “Our team may not have won a state championship or an FCIAC title, but so many great memories were made. I learned great leadership skills, which are essential while playing at a college level.”
Druehl had siblings who attended UConn and had many opportunities to visit campus prior to her official visit, but once she met the coaches, she knew it was the perfect fit.
Now, she and Keegans are learning what it is like to be a full-time student-athlete, this time as teammates not opponents. Between classes, practices, road trips, games and homework, both have realized that balance is key, especially during freshman year.
“I have learned to use every chance of free time that I get when we are traveling on the road for games to get my work done,” Druehl said.
“I do feel like I spend all of my free time doing homework or studying when we’re on the road, which isn’t all that fun, but that’s just one of the things that comes along with being a student-athlete,” Keegans added.
Despite all of the extra responsibility and focus that comes along with their new lives as UConn student-athletes, Druehl and Keegans can both agree that seeing minutes on a talented and nationally ranked Huskies team has been the ultimate reward, and they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else but continue playing the sport they love.