The U-32 soccer girls are facing up against Harwood in their 6th game of the season. Caroline Kirby muscles her way through two bigger defenders and sprints after the ball. The fans roar as Kirby dances by two more defenders and winds up for her shot. The sound of Kirby’s cleat connecting with the ball silences the crowd for a moment. The keeper dives, but she has no chance. The ball soars past into the side netting; the crowd erupts.
During Kirby’s sophomore year, she suffered a severe back injury. The injury got worse as the season progressed, and she did not fully recover until the very end of the season.
Caroline’s coach, Steve Towne, said he could tell something wasn’t right by the third game of the season. “She did everything she could to get back on the field,” Towne said. “After every five or ten minutes the injury would show back up.”
She tried everything– the school trainer, a physical therapist and regular doctor– but nothing seemed to help. “It was awful for me, you know,” said Kirby, “sitting on the bench and watching everyone play.”
Kirby tried to play through the pain a few times, but it only made things worse “It got to the point where I couldn’t even really put on my own socks anymore.”
Claire Obeldobel said she remembered seeing Kirby in a lot of pain. One moment really stood out to her, “One girl just fell on top of her,” Claire said, “and that was really scary because she hit her back and I saw her face. I could tell she was hurting.”
Now, Kirby says the injury was beneficial in a way. “I think it kind of worked out in the end,” Kirby said, “because I ended up appreciating soccer more.”
Kirby began playing soccer when she was four years old. She remembers watching her older sister play and wanting to be just like her. We didn’t really play that much,” Kirby said, “but I remember kicking the ball around and stuff.”
Her parents signed her up for Capital Soccer’s Junior Dragons league team when she was in Pre-k.
One of her favorite experiences with soccer was a trip with her club team to Holland. “We got to watch a professional game and were coached by a dutch coach, which was cool,” Kirby said.
Claire Obeldobel has been playing with Kirby since elementary school. Claire said Kirby was the type of kid who would just dribble through everyone and score: “She had technical skills at such a young age that no one else had.”
Now, as a junior, Kirby is dominating D2 soccer. She has scored thirty goals in nine games. She has scored multiple hat tricks and racked up many assists as well.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Kirby said. “I never thought I would be in this position as a junior”
Obeldobel says Kirby’s dominance on the field now is present in every aspect of her game. “She’s such a key part of each goal that we have, either she’s scoring or it’s off her corners or free kicks… it’s a lot of relieving pressure when she’s on the field”
Obeldobel said she is also a huge team player. She remembers once when they were on a team run, Kirby ran the entire way, then ran back to run and encourage other players on the team, ran back to the school, and then ran back again to meet the last finishers.
Kirby’s coach, Steve Towne,. “Obviously she loves soccer and loves to be on the pitch so coaching her is kind of a dream,” said Towne. Steve said he has never had a player strike the ball the way Caroline does. “I can picture her striking a ball,” he said, “and watch the keeper go one way and the ball goes the other.”
Kirby has lead her team to a 10-2 record this season. Caroline said that this team has a lot of talent and potential. “I think we have a good shot at state champs,” she said, there’s definitely a few good teams, but I think we have a shot at winning this year”