Kelly Wynkoop was admittedly rusty in goal at the start of the summer league season a few weeks ago. After all, it had been a long time since she last played an organized soccer game.
“My first game I just dropped every single ball,” said Wynkoop, a Shoreham-Wading River junior.
Seven games into the Town of Brookhaven Summer League, Wynkoop has quickly gotten back into groove. She made nine saves Friday afternoon — including a game-saving play in the final seconds — in a 2-1 win against Bayport-Blue Point at the Patchogue-Medford Youth Fields.
To see Wynkoop perform well in goal is nothing new for the Wildcats. She’ll be entering her third year as the starting goalkeeper this fall on the varsity team.
What is surprising is how she does it.
In a sport consumed by club and travel teams, clinics and camps — to the point where high school teams are almost afterthoughts for elite players — Wynkoop hardly plays the game outside school.
She hasn’t played on a club team since seventh grade. She doesn’t spend her summers away at soccer camps. She’s a three-month soccer player disguised as a year-round goalie.
“I never really had any professional training, never really go to camps,” Wynkoop said. “I’m kind of a bum.”
Her play suggests otherwise.
Bayport kept her busy with an array of high shots that she had to snatch out of the air. And when Bayport’s Nicole Geoghan found herself with an open lane to the goal with under 10 seconds left in the game, Wynkoop darted toward her as the last line of defense. She reached the ball just in time and got a piece of it to prevent Geoghan from scoring the game-tying goal.
“That was terrifying,” she said. “I kind of threw my body in front it hoping not to get kicked in the face. I’m glad I got a piece of it and then they were there to back me up. But that was really scary.”
For most players with several years of varsity experience, they often attend summer league games at their convenience. Club and travel teams tend to take precedent.
But without all those other commitments, the summer league turns into a critical warm-up period for the fall season for Wynkoop. It’s a chance to shake off some of the rust and get back on the field.
“It’s mostly getting my hands ready again,” she said. “I need it because otherwise I wouldn’t be good. It’s my only real warm-up for the real season.”
Wynkoop missed last week because of a vacation, but has otherwise been in goal each game, which is good news for the Wildcats because there isn’t much depth at the position behind her.
“There are no other goalies,” she said.
When Wynkoop came up to the varsity as a freshman, she never expected to start. There was as an older player in front of her. But she quickly won the job and never relinquished it.
The Wildcats made the playoffs in both her seasons. And now as a junior, she’ll be one of the veteran players on the team in the fall.
The Wildcats lost their top offensive players to graduation, including All-State players Kari Quinn and Shannon McDonnell.
The summer league has been an opportunity for some of the newer players to gain some experience and show what they can do. The results have been positive. With Friday’s win the Wildcats improved to 5-1-1.
“I was surprised we’re actually winning,” Wynkoop said. “We lost our whole offense, but we’re holding up pretty well.”
Wynkoop said incoming-freshman Megan Kelly has been an offensive spark for the Wildcats. She scored both of Shoreham’s goals Friday. The second came with five minutes left in the second half. Courtney Clasen lofted a high-arching shot from the left side that sent Bayport’s goalkeeper backpedaling toward the goal. Kelly was in position at the far post when the ball came down to get a piece of it and put it in.
Kelly tied the game at 1 immediately after Bayport had struck for the first goal early in the first half. King sent a hard shot from the right side off the crossbar and into the cage. Makayla Meeker set her up with the assist.
A game earlier Kelly scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Wynkoop actually had the assist.
“I just punted it and it went through people for some reason,” she said. “And [Kelly] scored.”
The Phantoms tested Wynkoop more than any team so far in the summer, which is how she likes it.
“Today was the first game I was really, really busy,” she said. “I work better under pressure. When I don’t get a lot of action is when I’m more likely to fumble or slip. When I get in the zone, I work a lot better.”