At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, former South Carolina soccer great Savannah McCaskill hit a major career milestone.
Just three days later, she might accomplish another.
In this week alone, McCaskill was the second overall pick in the National Women’s Soccer League College Draft and has a chance at earning her first career appearance for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
All in all, it’s a blazing start to 2018 after a stellar 2017 for McCaskill, a 5-foot-4 forward who led the Gamecocks to their first berth in the College Cup this past season.
While USC and McCaskill fell short of their ultimate goal, a national championship, they had the best year in program history, and McCaskill capped it off by being named a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, given to the best player in college soccer.
On Jan. 5, that award went to Stanford’s Andi Sullivan, who was selected as the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft. But McCaskill received a nice consolation prize when the U.S. Women’s National Team invited her to participate in a two-week training camp in Los Angeles that will end on Jan. 21 when the national team squares off against Denmark in its first international friendly of the year.
Of the 26 players invited to the training camp, 18 will suit up for the friendly. McCaskill is one of three players in the camp without a national team appearance to her name, but regardless of whether she plays against Denmark, she said she’s grateful to have had the opportunity.
“Definitely a great experience to be out here and training against the best players, not only in the country, but also in the world,” McCaskill said. “So just being able to play at this level and being able to learn from the best in soccer has been really fun and a great experience for me.”
The only drawback to the elite training McCaskill is getting is the fact that the five-year-old NWSL held its draft across the country in Philadelphia, and she missed being with her family and her college coaches, South Carolina’s Shelley and Jamie Smith when her name was called. In the long run, however, she said it’s not that big a deal.
“I definitely am not disappointed to be where I am right now,” she said. “Camp’s always an exciting time, and I always would love to be there even though it’s during draft time. So I’ll definitely be able to watch the draft, and that’s exciting as well, but definitely loving where I am right now.”
McCaskill said she watched the draft alongside Sullivan, who is also at the U.S. National Team camp. While Sullivan went first to the Washington Spirit, McCaskill landed in the northeast, going second overall to the Boston Breakers.
Before the draft, both McCaskill and Shelley Smith demurred when asked where they would like her to end up. The NWSL franchise closest to home for McCaskill, a Chapin native, would be the North Carolina Courage, based in Cary. However, they didn’t pick until the end of the first round, and McCaskill was off the board long before then.
“Some thought has been put into it, but at the end of the day, I enter the draft and see what happens. You don’t really have much control over it, you just kinda go with it, and wherever I end up, I end up, and I’ll make the most of it,” McCaskill said.
“We’ve had some contact with different teams, and I know they’ve asked about her and really rated her. Savannah is really open to going whenever, she knows it’s a great opportunity. She’s just excited to be in the league,” Smith said.
Greg Hadley: @GregHadley9