Maine South grad Emily O’Grady eager for challenge of being Division I women’s soccer goalkeeper

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Maddie Jobe graduated from Iowa State this year, leaving the Cyclones’ women’s soccer team with a vacancy at starting goalkeeper.

Emily O’Grady, a 2014 Maine South graduate, will be one of the players battling for that spot beginning next month.

Becoming the No. 1 goalkeeper on an NCAA Division I soccer team has been an objective of O’Grady’s for a long time, and she’s done several things this summer to try to earn that position.

“I think [starting] is the main goal for anybody who’s going to be playing a college sport,” O’Grady said. “If you’re going [to a Division I school], you generally want to start right away. That’s your goal and that’s how I’m going to train. I’m going to do my best to get the starting spot as fast as I can and do the best that I can.”

Douglas Cardosi has been O’Grady’s goalkeeper coach since she was a freshman at Maine South, but O’Grady didn’t have time to train at Cardosi’s PAWS Goalkeeper Academy this summer. She was too busy before leaving for Ames, Iowa, on July 12.

O’Grady spent her summer playing for FC United Under-18 Select and following the strength and conditioning program put together by Iowa State’s Theo James. She also traveled to Sunrise, Florida, to participate in a highly regarded camp called SoccerPlus.

SoccerPlus is a four-day camp run by Tony DiCicco, who coached the U.S. women’s national team at the 1999 World Cup, and it featured many of the country’s best young soccer players. O’Grady raved about SoccerPlus, citing its competitiveness and the level of detail the coaches provided.

It helped her become a more effective goalkeeper.

“One of the [pieces of] advice that my coaches told me was to focus on the ball on crosses instead of the people around you because you’re more likely to get the ball,” O’Grady said. “I’ve been focusing on that and I’ve been better on crosses.”

O’Grady and Iowa State assistant coach Jason Wichman, who’s the Cyclones’ goalkeeper coach, said there will be multiple things O’Grady must acclimate to in Division I soccer. Wichman said being a strong, physical presence on corner kicks will by vital for the 5-foot-6 all-state selection, who’s undersized by Division I standards.

Another huge adjustment will be growing accustomed to the speed of the game.

“Just in general, when the ball’s in our penalty area, the ball’s moving faster, shots are coming faster, the window to actually see a shot coming is so much smaller now than it was in club [soccer],” Wichman said. “It’s [less] of a reaction time.”

To prepare for that, O’Grady received a packet with daily workout plans crafted by James to do during the summer. It included some cardio work — she ran about two or three miles a day around Park Ridge — but it mostly focused on building strength and explosiveness with weightlifting and plyometrics.

This summer, O’Grady worked to improve her reaction time on saves — not just on the first shot, but getting up quickly to try to block a second shot if there’s one — as well as her lateral movement, jumping, foot skills and strength in her hands.

O’Grady will continue to work on each of those things in Ames over the next few weeks, as she trains with her team and eagerly awaits the start of Iowa State’s official preseason practices next month.

“It’s just a completely different game and I can’t wait to go out there and see it,” O’Grady said.

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