A torn posterior cruciate ligament threatened one of the most accomplished Eastern Michigan University women’s soccer goalkeeper’s future. Having come off of her best season yet, her upcoming senior season was in question.
McCabe, whose hometown is Arlington Heights, Illinois, attended high school at Prospect High School where she broke school records in soccer for her work in net.
McCabe currently holds Prospect High School's records for shut-outs in a season (11), most career shutouts (33), lowest career goals-against average (.870), and lowest season goals-against average (.710). But McCabe says that playing in high school was more for the fun of the game rather than progression of her abilities.
“High school soccer is interesting,” McCabe said. “Compared to my club, the playing level is a lot lower, and my club team was really good.” But the lower level of her high school team didn’t allow her to stray from getting better.
“My high school team wasn’t all that good on the field, so I had to work really hard to make up for that, but it was a fun experience. Club soccer is where I really grew as a player,” she said.
McCabe gives credit to playing for her club team, which is a team that is not sanctioned within high school or collegiate sports, for her recruitment to Eastern Michigan University.
In McCabe’s first year of collegiate soccer, she posted an undefeated record of 3-0, but only appeared in three games of the season. McCabe got her opportunity to grace the Eagles keeper’s nest after incumbent starting goalkeeper Jenna O’Dell went down with an injury at the end of McCabe’s freshman season.
McCabe earned her first collegiate shut-out against Buffalo University on Oct. 19 2012, when she made an unprecedented 18 saves on 20 shots.
“It was a really exciting feeling, I was an inexperienced collegiate player,” McCabe said. “I was really nervous, I did well, but it was shaky. I wasn’t the player I am today.”
When O’Dell came back from injury for the 2012-13 season it was McCabe who had taken the starting goalkeeper spot for the Eagles, and O’Dell was relegated to the bench. But there were no hard feelings amongst the two goalies.
“It’s a very competitive atmosphere all of the time, we were both always pushing ourselves and working hard,” McCabe said of the relationship. “But we’re still really good friends and there are no hard feelings.”
In McCabe’s sophomore year, she grabbed hold of the reins and refused to let go. She played in all 21 games that the Eagles contested and was on the field for 1,961 minutes of a total 1,967 minutes available. McCabe also posted a record of 12-7-2.
“The coaches never explicitly said that I was always their starter,” McCabe said. “Going into preseason I knew it was going to be a challenge and a competition for the spot.” And with the competition McCabe believed it made her better, to always know that there was someone there who wanted the starting spot as well.
In her junior year at EMU, McCabe was given the honor of being named a captain of her team, while also posting a 13-6-1 record and helping lead her team to the first round of the Mid-American Conference tournament.
One of McCabe’s memories from her junior year was a match against the University of Oregon, where she made nine saves to help secure a draw for her team against a nationally ranked opponent away from home.
Then, in her junior year’s final match, which also happened to be a knock-out game for the second round of the MAC Championship, the Eagles fell to rivals Western Michigan University in a double overtime thriller that ended in heartbreak.
McCabe played 107 minutes and made five saves but despite her efforts she gave up three goals, including Western Michigan’s game winner.
“When the ball crossed the line, I had a feeling that stuck with me for months,” said McCabe. “It’s such a defeated feeling, because we didn’t have our best game. I didn’t live up to my expectations.”
But McCabe wasn’t going to let the loss define her future in the goal.
And then the unthinkable happened while McCabe was training in the offseason. While doing sprints she fell onto her knee and her shinbone tore her PCL. McCabe didn’t have surgery to fix her PCL because the injury very rarely happens. And with lack of studies and lack of effectiveness of surgery she opted to not get surgery.
McCabe was relieved that the injury didn’t happen during the season, especially after having acquired her starting spot because of an injury to O’Dell.
“I was so relieved that it happened out of the season,” McCabe said. “I was so happy that it happened when it did, but it could have been a lot worse.”
When Coach Scott Hall was asked about the injury and how the use of McCabe would affect the confidence of his team," Hall said. “She will have a big role on the confidence of the team to play at a high rate and still be protected by any defensive mistakes.”
And even though a freshman goalkeeper was recruited in the off-season, McCabe doesn’t think that her starting spot is going to be threatened. McCabe has Coach Hall’s full backing regardless of the injury she is recovering from.
“I can’t say I’m surprised that the coaches are confident in me,” McCabe said. “Because I have worked very hard to gain that confidence over the last three years. I never stop pushing myself and I always want to get better so I think that helps.”
In regards to the freshman goalkeeper coming in for McCabe’s senior year, McCabe sees an opportunity to mentor and help a younger goalkeeper who will be in net for the Eagles in the future rather than fear being placed on the bench as a number two goalkeeper.
“Part of my role is helping to mold her into a collegiate player and helping her improve,” McCabe said about freshman Kaylin Williams-Mosier, who will be the back-up keeper for the upcoming season. “She’s going to be me when I’m gone and I want the team to have success.”
From sitting out almost an entire season, to taking over a starting spot, leading her team to an important tournament, getting injured and then coming back from a major injury to her senior year in an important leadership role, McCabe is ready for her last challenge as a collegiate goalkeeper.
“I think a lot of people are discrediting our team this upcoming year, and I think that this team is still working out the kinks but we’re going to work much better as a team, this team is much closer and we are going to work hard. We are going to have success.”
Follow Robert Sherman on Twitter: @r__sherman