Photo: File Photo: Valencia Abraham / The Daily Gamecock

Breaking records, inspiring leadership: Savannah McCaskill reflects on senior season

Being a great athlete is an understatement for South Carolina's Savannah McCaskill. 

The senior forward has earned many accolades in her women's soccer career, including being named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and recognized on the SEC Academic Honor Roll and NSCAA All-South Region First Team.

While McCaskill has significantly impacted the South Carolina women’s soccer team the past three seasons and currently during her final season, leading the team with seven goals, she has not taken anything for granted. 

McCaskill says she owes the creation of the soccer program to both of her coaches: Shelley Smith and Jamie Smith. 

“It’s come so far since they’ve gotten here,” McCaskill said. “And just to be able to come in and play for them and really be part of the family is amazing.” 

Ever since she was seven years old, McCaskill's vision was to play soccer at the collegiate level at a Division I school. 

Her first promise to herself was to make an impact instantly. 

McCaskill's early soccer days consisted of playing travel ball and traveling from Greenville and Sumter to Columbia. She became accustomed to doing schoolwork while on the road in order to put her energy into soccer. 

She began to develop a deeper passion for soccer and create valuable leadership skills. Before her high school team would get ready to play, McCaskill would write inspirational quotes on paper to put in her teammates' cleats. 

Leadership became second nature to McCaskill. 

“Her drive and her commitment has always come [from] within her,” said Tina McCaskill, Savannah's mother.

McCaskill grew up as an only child, leading her to develop her own goals and aspirations at a young age. Both of McCaskill's parents influenced her to work hard for what she wants.

“Just really instilling that in me when I was younger has been a big thing for me and to be able to build on that," McCaskill said. 

During her first year at South Carolina, McCaskill was one of 14 players on the team. Despite the numbers, she was not intimidated. Her confidence allowed McCaskill to become a “silent leader,” according to her mother. 

That silence broke for McCaskill at South Carolina, especially during her junior season. She made a commitment to herself to become more fit and prepare to play a full 90 minutes each match.

“That really helped me to be on the field the whole match and to be able to impact the entire match,” McCaskill said.

The routine of practice and game days is habit for McCaskill, who said the key after practicing in the morning is going to class and receiving any treatment and recovering for the upcoming game.

McCaskill puts her left cleat on before her right and listens to her favorite playlist before each game. She is fully focused before stepping onto the field. Once on the field, her eyes are searching for a way to score or how to bring other players into the game.

“I love to attack, so like, anything that I can do to be creative or be on the ball, is kind of what I really love to do and I really enjoy,” McCaskill said. 

Some of McCaskill's inspiration as a player comes from books. One of her favorite books is “John Gordon’s Training Camp Book," which she read before going to a national ECNL camp in Portland, Oregon, during her junior year. This was the point when she realized the difference in becoming a great player and being a great player who leads.

McCaskill’s hard work is not overlooked, which has allowed her to be nominated as one of the Top 10 senior finalists for the CLASS Award. The CLASS Award is given to an NCAA Division I senior student-athlete who embodies community, competition, character and classroom. 

“It’s always a privilege to be nominated for stuff like that,” McCaskill said. “But it’s just a testament to how good this team has been and how good everyone around me has been in order to put me in the position to be nominated for it.”

McCaskill's parents were surprised when they heard she was a finalist for this award, but when they realized what it symbolized they knew the award described McCaskill. 

“The fact that it is built so into the character portion as well as the accomplishment on the soccer field that says a lot because it’s a well-rounded person that they are looking for,” Tina McCaskill said. “So of course, as parents we certainly want the character part to be just as important as what her skills on the field show.” 

The season is nowhere near finished for McCaskill. Her goals are, for the women's soccer team, to win the SEC again and to continue to push herself as a student-athlete. 

“I think that this team can win a national championship, so just taking it game by game for this season, seeing what comes after that,” McCaskill said. 

After she graduates in December, McCaskill is determined to make sure her soccer career doesn't end. She plans to go into the draft in January in hopes of playing professionally. 

“I really hope she takes a lot of great memories ... look back on the goals that she had, that she wanted to go into a college to make an impact and to enjoy herself,” Tina McCaskill said. “And I hope that in the end that she can look back and say, 'Yep, that’s what I did,' and just check another box.” 

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Gamecock.