Nearly all soccer players have a specific ladder they have to scale in order to become professionals, and Kaitlyn Savage recently grabbed hold of a higher rung.
Savage, a 2009 Gig Harbor High School graduate who finished her college career last fall at Florida International University, signed a contract in December with the Perth Glory, a semipro women’s soccer club in Australia.
During her final three seasons at FIU, Savage was rock-solid at goalkeeper for the Golden Panthers. She was a three-time All-Sun Belt Conference player and was the first goalie in school history to win at least 10 games in three consecutive seasons. Her career record in home matches was 23-5-2.
After a brief stop in Gig Harbor for Christmas, Savage flew to Australia and will begin her season with Perth this month. She’s hoping to prove herself with the Glory, and that could turn into a pro opportunity with a club in England, Norway or the Netherlands.
“If I wasn’t in Australia, I would probably just be training and preparing in hopes of getting a contract soon,” she wrote in an email.
FIU head coach Thomas Chestnutt believes Savage is capable of success at the sport’s highest levels.
“Kaitlyn has been a fantastic goalkeeper for us,” Chestnutt said in a news release. “She has always had ambitions of playing professionally. I’m happy it worked out for her. This will give her a great playing and a great life experience. I’m really excited for her and what she has done.”
Savage’s senior season was outstanding. She finished with a 13-6-2 record, recorded seven shutouts and led the Sun Belt Conference in saves percentage (.848). Her 106 saves were second-most in the conference, and she tied the FIU record for career clean sheets (20).
After a standout career at Gig Harbor High, Savage indicated her growth continued at FIU under the direction of Chestnutt and assistant coach Kyle Schroeder. She said she improved in every area of goalkeeping, including defending crosses and one-on-one situations, leadership and communication.
“I would not be where I am if it weren’t for FIU,” she said. “I really grew as a player and a person, and am very thankful for that.”
Savage occasionally returns to Gig Harbor, and she typically throws herself into youth coaching opportunities. She did an internship with the Harbor Soccer Club last summer, and she also organized her own goalkeeper camp that involved more than 30 players.
She also likes to practice with the girls at the Harbor under-18 team.
“I have known some of the girls and coaches for years,” Savage said. “It’s nice to know I always have a team to come back to and practice with.”
Gig Harbor High has another connection with the FIU program — 2011 graduate Jasmin Jones plays defender there — and Savage is aiming to become the third former Tides goalkeeper to turn pro. Tally Hall has starred for the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer for the past two seasons, and Jaime Souza is now with Norwegian club Arna-Bjonar.
Savage said her youth soccer experience in Gig Harbor propelled her to where she is today.
“I think growing up there gave me every opportunity to succeed,” she said. “The standard and expectations are high, but at the same time, I was able to enjoy youth soccer and didn’t get too burnt out. I think there is a good balance.”Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.