When the buzzer sounded on her final game as a Tufts senior, GW grad student Cara Cadigan couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to the game she loves.
“Your last game as a senior, you have that moment of ‘Oh my gosh, I’m never gonna play again,'” Cadigan said. “I had that moment and I definitely wasn’t ready for it.”
After a standout three years at Tufts, Cadigan had compiled an impressive list of accomplishments, including serving as team captain for two seasons and breaking the schools’s season scoring record in 2007.
It might have been enough for a lot of college athletes, but looking back on those years, Cadigan decided it wasn’t quite time to let soccer go. Due to a torn ACL, Cadigan sat out her freshman year at Tufts, leaving her with an extra year of eligibility to play as a graduate student, a year that the former Tufts star chose to use at GW.
“I really liked the D.C. area, I really liked GW – it was definitely my top choice. And bringing soccer into it really made it the whole package,” Cadigan said of her decision to relocate to Foggy Bottom.
With another fifth-year player, defender Liz Hillin, already on the roster after sitting out last season with a knee injury, adding Cadigan as a second fifth-year player was an opportunity women’s soccer head coach Tanya Vogel couldn’t pass up.
“The three most successful [women’s soccer] teams at GW had two fifth years in the roster,” Vogel said. “So when Cara contacted me, I was like, ‘Wait a second, we could get another fifth-year senior?'”
Joining the GW team while enrolled in the physical therapy graduate program was a whole new experience for Cadigan.
“School is a challenge,” she said, emphasizing the intensity of the physical therapy program and the number of hours she puts into her studies. “There’s more work and a lot more time management.”
Additionally, making the switch from the Division III Tufts program to GW’s Division I squad was an adjustment on the field.
“People definitely hit harder, the pace of the game is a little faster,” Cadigan said. “But I play the same game I’ve always played. My teammates are different, but I don’t think it’s a different type of soccer.”
While playing with an entirely new set of teammates might have intimidated some, Cadigan was barely fazed by joining a new team.
“Everyone here truly loves soccer and puts everything they have into it,” she said. “Liz [Hillin] and I get a few ‘oldest girl on the field’ jokes, but it’s like any other team. We’re all happy to be here and be playing.”
The contributions that Cadigan and fellow fifth-year player Hillin make to the team are invaluable, Vogel said. The GW head coach spoke highly of both players, highlighting not only their maturity, but also how they serve as role models for the underclassman members of the team.
“Our freshmen are always watching the upperclassmen with wide eyes and drinking it in through a fire hose,” Vogel said. “Cara and Liz bring this leadership quality, a kind of renewed energy that only those type of players can bring.”
Despite her brief tenure, it’s easy to tell Cadigan feels as much a part of her team as anyone else and shares the same goal.
“We’re gonna make the A-10s,” she said, echoing past statements from coaches and teammates. “That’s our game plan.”
It’s that confidence, Vogel said, that really makes Cadigan such a leader on this year’s team. Fifth-year seniors don’t have a next season to plan for and no games after this season ends, so making this year count, Vogel said, is a priority for them.
“They’ve done a great job, the upperclassmen, the senior leadership, at setting an agenda and getting it done,” Vogel said. “And fifth-year seniors really embrace the idea of ‘It’s soccer, I’m going to love every minute of it.'”