If adversity reveals character, Castleton University women’s soccer coach Chris Chapdelaine says Loren Henderson can go to the head of the class.
Henderson’s career as the Spartan goalie got off to a rousing start last year as a freshman. She made 10 saves in a 1-1 tie against Westfield State and was named the North Atlantic Conference Rookie of the Week.
But the season took a cruel turn. She broke her hand in that game and never was able to play the rest of the campaign. She was granted a medical red shirt, giving her four more years of eligibility.
Chapdelaine said her attitude and participation that year was admirable.
“She came to practice with us and traveled with us. When most freshmen get a season-ending injury, they struggle with that piece,” Chapdelaine said. “We want our goalies to be vocal and direct the back line. Loren did all of those same things from the sideline. For a freshman, that is just unbelievable.”
Castleton has two goalkeepers who are Rutland High School graduates. Like Henderson, Castleton men’s starting goalkeeper Ryan McKay swapped the Raider red for the Spartan green.
It is unusual enough to have two starting keepers from the same high school, but making it even more so is the fact that McKay and Henderson had outstanding seasons and both still have three more years in the net for the Spartans.
McKay was named Little East Conference Goalie of the Week and Rookie of the Week for his performance in games against Middlebury and Little East rival Keene State. He allowed only two goals in 180 minutes against those quality opponents and one was a penalty kick in the 1-0 loss to Middlebury. He was every bit as good in a 2-1 upset victory over the Owls.
Henderson led the Little East Conference in saves with 123 and earned All-Little East Conference second team honors.
Coming from Rutland, they were groomed by some of the same people along the way. Ron Henderson, the Rutland boys soccer coach and Loren’s father, worked with both on goalkeeping, as did Scott French, a Proctor High coach and former goalie coach at Castleton.
Both played club soccer for their respective head coach at Castleton — Henderson for Chapdelaine and McKay for John O’Connor.
They took different routes to the position.
“It was always goalie for me. It was always what I wanted to do,” Henderson said.
McKay, though, had been a field player.
“I was in a tournament and the goalkeeper had left the team,” McKay said. “They ended up throwing me in the goal. I guess I did well enough so that I was the goalie the rest of the year whether I liked it or not.”
He liked it enough to eventually choose the position as the one he would play permanently.
“My goal was to play in college and I knew I had to become proficient at one of them,” McKay said.
O’Connor feels that the way soccer is played today, it helps a player like McKay to have had that experience as a field player. He cited the importance of a goalkeeper’s ability to play the ball forward whether it be with the feet or arm to trigger the transition to offense.
“It is important for the goalie to make good decisions the same way it is for a midfield player,” O’Connor said.
Many soccer coaches subscribe to the maxim that you build a team from the back forward. That being the case, O’Connor and Chapdelaine have to feel good about the seasons ahead.
“Loren is arguably the best goalkeeper we’ve ever had and we have had some good ones,” Chapdelaine said.
“I always thought that there was potential for Ryan to play (at this level),” O’Connor said.
Both keepers had to adjust to the speed of the college game compared to high school.
“It’s a different pace of play,” McKay said. “If you hesitate a little in high school you won’t always get penalized for it. Here, if you go out, you have to go out fast and hard.”
“It’s the speed of the play that is different and how much more communication is needed,” Henderson said.
Soccer and academics were both part of the equation when choosing a school for McKay and Henderson.
McKay is a double major in Computer Systems and Business.
There was also plenty he liked about the soccer program.
“I really liked the way John coached and I just liked the whole operation and the way they played,” McKay said.
Henderson is pursuing an Athletic Training major, long one of Castleton’s flagship programs. She also liked Chapdelaine’s approach, having played for him at the club level.
The Athletic Training major is a five-year program, fitting in perfectly with that 2017 season she lost to injury.
Being a goalie can be a tough position mentally. When a player makes a mistake in the field, it is less noticeable.
When a keeper makes a mistake that leads to a goal, the glare of the spotlight is intense.
“You have to have a short memory,” O’Connor said. “You might have a ball get by you that you think you should have got. You have to say, ‘so what.’”
Ryan McKay and Loren Henderson are well on the way to making some good memories. The ones that last a lifetime.