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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Fast reflexes and confidence: Caitlyn Draper reflects on successful freshman season

Kobe Arriaga
Texas State freshman goalkeeper Caitlyn Draper rallies her teammates during the game versus Southern Miss, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, at Bobcat Soccer Complex.

Texas State freshman goalkeeper Caitlyn Draper has found herself in the top 100 rankings for Texas collegiate goalkeepers, all while being 18 years old and only four months into her time with the Bobcat program.

Originally from Hutto, Texas, Draper discovered her passion for soccer by pure coincidence after being pushed to enroll in an after-school program.

“[I] started playing at seven because my mom wanted me to join a sport, and soccer was the first thing I landed on,” Draper said. “Luckily, my mom went all in and enrolled me in camps and started the whole process.”

Texas State assistant coach Nathan Stockie, who was a part of Draper’s recruiting and collegiate experience from the first training camp she attended, said Draper’s ability to work the field is not the only reason the coaching staff was drawn to her.

“She has a natural athleticism; she plays like she’s 6 ft tall and covers the frame well, but what really stuck with us was that we also saw her growth potential,” Stockie said. “She shows confidence. Whether she’s feeling it or not, you wouldn’t know, and it’s such a mature thing for a player so young.”

Teammates have noticed Draper’s confident mentality as well. Junior defender Lucy Hart said she remains relaxed and calm before games, but her attitude and performance come game time help run the field.

“Her fast reflexes in practice or games are just so cool,” Hart said. “I don’t know many goalies that can get to things how she does. The low fast shots to corners are hard to get, but she gets there.”

Draper alternated between forward, midfield and defensive positions for clubs she played for before entering college. However, once she committed to Texas State, Draper locked into her position between the posts and began to understand her role fully.

“I was nervous coming in, but I’ve merged well into the athletic and academic environment,” Draper said. “I immediately noticed that everyone was so friendly, and I felt so welcomed.”

After finding community and comfort within the team quickly, in September of the 2023 season, Draper was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week after a historic 1-0 upset victory over the University of Houston.

This achievement brought in much attention, the first being her getting placed in the starting lineup of the Bobcats’ game-day roster.

“I feel like I have a sense of imposter syndrome a little,” Draper said. “Like, it hasn’t really set in yet that I’m actually here.”

The success Draper has found has left her feeling mixed, though Hart said she does not consider there to be a sense of distance between Draper and the team since the season began.

“Between the backline and Caitlyn, we all work well together because no one is on a pedestal,” Hart said. “We feel no sense of seniority because she’s younger.”

Acknowledging a player’s success this early in the season has positives and negatives. However, Draper said once she worked through the initial shock, it pushed her to be more successful.

“Since I’ve been playing well, it helped me feel more confident, but my mentality shifted a little bit as I know I can’t get content,” Draper said. “I feel like I got harder on myself because I’ve worked so hard to get here, so I have to keep working harder.”

Stockie said it’s common for freshmen players to overthink their performances and internalize mistakes or get too wrapped up in the hysterics of games. Since welcoming Draper to the team, Stockie noticed she tends to take a different mentality.

“She’s a pretty laid-back person, but you can see as it gets closer to game time she becomes more far more inwardly focused, but for her, it’s about going out and having fun,” Stockie said. “It’s competitive, but she doesn’t overthink it; she just plays.”

As the season progressed, Draper collected five shutout performances and 66 saves. To finish a record-breaking season in goal, Draper played a vital role in the Bobcats’ 2-1 win over the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in round one of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The win marked Texas State’s first victory in the tournament since 2018.

Draper has zero plans on stepping out of the spotlight or away from soccer and is excited to see what the 2024 season has in store for her and her team.

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