The pressure felt by goalkeepers across the sport of soccer is something that is unique to the position. Despite there being 11 players on the field at once, the goalie is the last line of defense, and their performance can mark the difference between a win and a loss.
This difficult role is avoided by many, but Villanova women’s soccer goalkeeper Megan McClay has been accepting all the challenges that come with it ever since she was a kid.
“I think just being put constantly in the net makes it grow on you,” McClay said. “When I was little I wanted to be on the field because I wanted to score goals, I didn’t want to be stuck in the net. But as I got older, I just grew to love it more.”
The Texas native and Villanova senior has had a passion for soccer since she was five years old, and her desire to play brought her to the Main Line after spending two seasons at Oklahoma.
“I wanted an opportunity to be a part of a different environment and get an opportunity to compete, and potentially play,” McClay said. “I enjoyed the conversation with the [Villanova] coaches and the bigger picture they are trying to create for the program.”
McClay’s love for the position and her drive to compete has certainly made a difference this season, as Villanova got off to its best start in more than 12 years with an unblemished 5-0 record.
Over the course of this undefeated streak, McClay only allowed three goals in roughly 455 minutes of playing time. She also added two shutouts to her name against Cornell and Colorado College during this five-game span.
According to McClay, the help of her teammates has been integral to her hot start and her ability to handle the pressures of goalkeeping.
“They’re really good about instilling confidence in me,” McClay said. “We’re just comfortable with each other and having that aspect of trust makes it a lot easier in net.”
With this mutual confidence in mind, McClay believes the Wildcats’ unity has only grown stronger this season, and she attributed much of the team’s success to its togetherness.
“I think that the relationship we have with each other off the field corresponds with our results on the field,” McClay stated. “Building those relationships off the field really helps… and getting to know each other on a personal level has helped the cohesiveness of the team, and that’s correlated to our performance on the field.”
Off the field and in the classroom, McClay has to face the hardships of being a student athlete at Villanova, as she must balance the responsibilities of class with her dedication to sport.
“It’s definitely hard and it’s really demanding, and obviously you’re pretty exhausted from training in the morning and then going to class and doing your homework,” McClay said.
However, McClay has managed the juggling act most student athletes are burdened with quite well, as she earned a spot on the Big East’s Honor Roll in late August. On the field, she received conference weekly honors five times in the Spring 2021 season and has posted a 0.738 save percentage so far in the fall.
Beyond soccer, McClay, who is majoring in finance, hopes to pursue her education and make her way back home in the next few years.
“I’m leaning more towards getting into my profession,” McClay said. “I definitely want to pursue a master’s degree in finance. But, I would most likely do that at a school in Texas and hopefully get a job down there.”
In the more immediate future, McClay and the rest of the Wildcats have to prepare for their Big East foes, as conference play ramps up in the upcoming weeks. It will be a tough task for Villanova, with formidable, top-ranked competition in the conference. However, if McClay’s testament to her team’s unity says anything, it’s that the Wildcats are ready to confront any challenge that comes their way.