Sydney Carr has scored more goals than any women’s Division I soccer player while leading Seattle University to a share of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship.
Now the redshirt junior will need to rely on her teammates for a chance to play again.
Carr, who has scored 16 goals after missing the 2019 season because of an ACL injury, was exposed to an individual who has since tested positive for COVID-19. That means she will be quarantining when the Redhawks play in the WAC tournament, beginning Thursday in Phoenix.
Seattle U (11-4-2, 10-2-2 WAC), the second seed in the WAC tournament (co-WAC champion Utah Valley has the No. 1 seed) has a bye in the first round. The Redhawks will play the winner of Grand Canyon and Chicago State in the semifinals.
“I’ve been doing this long enough that you always have adversity,” said Julie Woodward, in her 24th season as Seattle U’s coach. “It was a crushing blow (finding out Carr couldn’t play in the WAC tournament), but the word for this year has been adaptability. … I really find it as a challenge for all of us — the team and the coaching staff — and I find it as a great opportunity for the rest of the team, because we have a very good team from top to bottom. It’s a perfect moment for others to rise to the moment.”
If Seattle U can win the WAC tournament, it would receive a bid into the NCAA tournament, with Carr expected to be able to return if the team can get there.
Carr, named WAC offensive player of the year this week, said she will watch the games and rooting for her teammates. Not that it will be easy being forced to watch from afar.
“It’s very hard,” she said. “I worked so hard to get to this point to try to get to the NCAA tournament. I’ve had a few days to dwell on the situation, and I can’t really do anything about it. I just have to sit here and know that my team will do well — I have so much confidence that they will get to the championship game and win the championship. I have 100% faith they can do it without me.”
It will be tougher without Carr, who has always had a knack for scoring goals. She scored 95 career goals for El Modena High School in Orange, California, helping her team reach the state playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
She elected to stay close to home and play for UC Irvine. She was named second-team all-Big West Conference and was on the all-freshman team. She found it tougher when it came to school.
“Having classes that are 400-plus people was very difficult, so I decided it was my time to leave,” she said.
Carr spent a year at Cerritos College, tying a California Community College Athletic Association record with 47 goals and being named national community college player of the year.
Carr decided she wanted to get outside of her bubble in California and landed at Seattle U. In her first practice for the Redhawks, in August 2019, she tore her ACL. After a year recovering from that, she tore her MCL, which set her back another six weeks.
“When I tore my ACL, it took a big toll on me,” Carr said. “I wanted to give up.”
She didn’t, and “I worked my (butt) off to get here.” Carr said she isn’t quite back to full strength, not that you would know by the stats, which include an NCAA season-best 10 points (four goals, two assists) in an 8-0 win over Chicago State.
Carr set a goal of scoring 25 goals. She fell a bit short of that, but her 16 is one more than Grambling’s Kailey Pena, who is second in the nation.
“I just have this drive where I want to score,” said Carr, who kept track of where she was among the nation’s leaders during the season. “I am goal driven. That is what I want to do. I’m always playing games to break records. That’s always what is on my mind.”
Woodward had high expectations for Carr, who spent time training with the under-17 and under-19 national teams, but who could have expected this, especially coming off an ACL injury.
“She only has one speed,” Woodward said. “What is impressive about her is she trains as hard as she plays in games, which I think is really a great quality. I think her instincts are always, ‘Can I score a goal, can I get a shot off?’ She is one of the most pure finishers I have coached in 24 years.”
Will Carr get another chance to add to her stats in the NCAA tournament? History is on her side.
The Redhawks have played in the past two NCAA tournaments after winning WAC tournament titles, and they are the only Division I team to play in seven consecutive conference tournament championship games.
“It has to be a full effort,” Woodward said. “It can’t be just a couple of players playing well. It needs to be a large majority of the team.”