March 23, 2017
Savannah McCaskill has a long list of personal accolades while helping the South Carolina women’s soccer team reach new heights during her first three seasons with the Gamecocks. With one more season to go, the rising senior striker is already beginning to make a name for herself in international competition as well after recently competing with Team USA’s Under-23 team at a tournament in Spain and notching her first game winning goal against Japan.
“We had been talking a lot about pressure, so one of the big things we wanted to do against Japan was turn them over and then counter-attack,” McCaskill said. “I just saw a backwards ball that I could press their center back. I was able to strip her of the ball, then went one-on-one with the keeper and placed it into the back post. That was pretty cool because Japan was a phenomenal team, and to be able to score against them and then win the game, was just awesome – especially because it was my first game with USA.”
After establishing school single season records with 17 goals, 45 points and 10 game-winning goals while helping the South Carolina women’s soccer team win the SEC Championship and reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, McCaskill was invited to participate in the U.S. Women’s National Team’s first training camp of 2017 and was later chosen for the U-23 roster to play the international tournament in La Manga, Spain, earlier this month for matches against Japan, England and Norway.
“I was really excited to be able to represent the USA, and to get the experience of playing international competition against those other countries,” McCaskill said. “I wasn’t really nervous. It was more excitement, rather than nerves.
“The best part was just getting to play other countries. We played Japan, which is one of the most technical teams in the world. So that was a really cool experience. We also played England and Norway, which were both phenomenal teams. Just the experience of playing teams from other countries and to play with the best players from our country was amazing.”
McCaskill was one of only four collegiate players on the 22-person roster, and was the team captain for the match against Japan. The U-23 USA team went 2-1 in the tournament after also defeating Norway and falling to England.
“For the Spain trip, it was mostly girls who had just graduated from college or who had been pros for one or two years,” McCaskill said. “Most of our time was spent with training, meetings and games. We did get to go to the beach for recovery one day, so that was pretty cool. Other than that, not too many touristy things.”
Playing at the highest division one level has really helped prepare me going forward to be ready for international play.Savannah McCaskill
While the experience gave her a taste for what she hopes to do on a regular basis after her collegiate career, McCaskill is prepared to use the international experience to help prepare for her senior season.
“Just to be able to play at the highest level of competition and to get the experience of playing with the best players in the country is going to help me increase my game and increase my speed of play,” McCaskill said. “Going into the fall, I can bring in that experience with our team and hopefully make an impact to make our team better. International play is always going to be a step higher than college. The speed of play is faster and the girls are stronger. The technicality of the game is increased. Japan is very technical, and they do a lot of quick ‘one-twos,’ so you have to adapt to that. A team like England is very physical. You see how all of the elements of the game are increased at that level. You have to pick up the level of your game to try to match it.”
McCaskill also added that her experience of playing for the Gamecocks, under the direction of head coach Shelley Smith and associate head coach Jamie Smith, helped prepare her for next level.
“Jamie and Shelley have been great,” McCaskill said. “Our practices are very competitive, and we play with some of the best teams in the country with our schedule. You’re always pushed here, and our coaches are willing to do extra sessions to help me get better technically or better fitness-wise. Playing at the highest division one level has really helped prepare me going forward to be ready for international play.”
With several U-23 events coming up, McCaskill could be selected for more competitions in the near future. Her ultimate goal is to get back to Team USA’s full-team camp at some point. Playing for Team USA is a dream come true for McCaskill, but similar to her training camp experience, she wasn’t allowed to keep any of the Team USA “swag.”
“Nope, still nothing yet,” McCaskill laughed. “Hopefully one day. I’d love to have some of our gear that we get to train in and play in. As for now, we have to turn everything back in.”
For now, the Gamecocks are happy that she’ll be wearing the garnet and black for one more year.
“I’m excited,” McCaskill said of her upcoming senior season. “We have several returners coming back, and we have 11 or 12 freshmen who will be here in July. I’m excited to see the new environment and see how everyone blends together, and then get ready for the fall.”