By Sam Draut–
Everything was in place for goal-scoring forward Casey Whitfield to finish off her career with a fine senior season in 2014, but a torn Achilles heel forced her to redshirt and put her final season on hold.
A year later, Whitfield is finally playing out her senior year.
In eight games this season, the local product from DuPont Manual High School has scored two goals and added two assists to contribute to the Cardinals 4-5-1 overall record.
Whitfield has added pressure on the back line of opposing defenses with 17 shots thus far.
Coming off the Achilles injury, Head Coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes has monitored Whitfield’s minutes throughout the year. With open substitution in collegiate soccer, Whitfield is able to sub in and out of games freely.
“It isn’t my favorite thing because I would much rather play, but with my injury last year we had to be smart with it and make sure that I manage my minutes now, so when it comes two or three games from now I am able to play and not have to sit on the sidelines,” Whitfield said.
In her nine appearances, four of them being starts, Whitfield has averaged 47 minutes per match.
“I love any chance I get to play on the field here being my last year and my last chance of playing soccer,” Whitfield said. “It is fantastic any minute I can get on the field, and helping my team win is an even more incredible feeling.”
The monitored minutes do not account for the treatment Whitfield goes through during the week to keep her Achilles heel strong enough to compete.
“I live in the training room,” Whitfield said. “I am there probably five or six hours a day doing treatment making sure that I am able to play on the weekends because that is the most important part for me.”
Whitfield’s mother also tore her Achilles heel, so Casey has had someone to help guide her through the recovery process the right way.
Whitfield said the long rehab process took time.
“I was on crutches for two months and in a boot. I wasn’t allowed to walk,” Whitfield said. “The minute I was allowed to walk I was probably pushing the limits a little too much, but I wanted to get back out there and play.”
Though the injury was terrible, Whitfield thinks the year away from soccer gave her a real appreciation for playing.
“It gave me a new hope and look on soccer,” Whitfield said.
When she has been on the field, Whitfield has been one of the most clutch players in recent memory. She has 12 career goals including three game winning goals. Along with the goals, Whitfield has 11 career assists.
She credits her late game moments to her unwillingness to ever give in.
“I never want to quit out there, when my team is down I want to do everything possible to help my team win,” Whitfield said.
With a team comprised of only five seniors, Whitfield’s leadership will become crucial as the team heads into the bulk of their ACC schedule. Closing out games can be difficult, but on Thursday’s ACC home opener against Miami, the Cardinals held off a late onslaught to win their first ACC match 1-0.
“Finishing the game is one of the hardest things, but I think we were much better than where we were in the past, but there is always room for improvement. I think we were much calmer on the ball and delaying our restarts which is good, but I think we need to hold the ball better and not let opponents have as many chances,” Whitfield said.
So now, the fifth-year senior heads into the final month of her collegiate career focused on making the ACC and NCAA tournament by scoring goals for her hometown team.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play for U of L. When I was younger I would come to the games and watch and say ‘I want to be out there playing,’ so the fact that I have the opportunity is great,” Whitfield said. “The fact that I can represent Louisville in a positive way is even better.”