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A serious injury can really set a high school athlete back, especially one hoping to play in college.

However, West York rising senior Catie McCarty wasn't about to let that happen.

After tearing her ACL before her sophomore soccer season with the Bulldogs, McCarty was forced to the sidelines. Instead of sulking, she reevaluated the sport and its importance. Not being able to play gave her a new perspective.

“I think that waiting period made me want to come back even more,” she said. “Before I was playing just to play, now I play because I really want to. It’s a whole different experience. It really makes you think about the game and how you would do things different if you knew you couldn’t play.”

Back to protecting the goal at West York, McCarty took advantage of a terrific junior year in 2015 and recently signed on to play at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a Division I women’s soccer program.

“(Playing in college) was a dream of mine. It never really seemed real until this last year that I could actually do it,” said McCarty, who took up soccer as a small child and moved exclusively to goal keeper in eighth grade.

At nearly 6 feet tall, McCarty has the size to play the position in college. Still, she feels fortunate to land at a school the caliber of NJIT, knowing that goal keepers don’t always get an equal opportunity to get scholarship money to play collegiately.

“It all starts with the recruitment process. You’ll have a coach come to a game and you don’t touch the ball once,” she said. “It can get frustrating some times. Just the position itself is hard getting into college.”

First-year NJIT head coach Ally Nick came to a tournament and saw McCarty play. A visit to the school, which included attending a Highlanders’ spring game, sold McCarty.

Academics also played a large part in McCarty’s decision, as well as the smaller campus located near New York City. Still, it was Nick’s approach that convinced her to head east.

“I had a chance to talk to some of the girls and they said how much things have improved already,” McCarty said. “I like (Nick’s) mentality for the game and how she talked with the players. She was nice to them, but could get on them. Still you felt like you could talk to her.”

Proud to be heading to college to play in 2017, McCarty knows she can’t rest on her high school performance.

“I am going to have to work on my speed and strength because in college, it’s a different game than in high school,” she said. “It gives me the extra pressure. You always want to make the save, but you think people will always expect you to make the save. “It gives me the extra motivation to show people that earned spot.”

When she arrives on campus, McCarty won’t be the only YAIAA alum on the Highlanders’ roster. She joins Susquehannock grad Brooke McGee, a sophomore at NJIT, as well as former Central York star Briana Hackos, who is a freshman there.

For now, she is looking forward to her upcoming senior season at West York, saying: “I plan on enjoying my senior year. Having the opportunity to keep playing and focus on enjoying the last moments.”

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