THE GRIND: Kayla Casey, South Forsyth Lacrosse
Kayla Casey will admit that she was scared at first.
Of course, almost everyone is when they first start playing goalie in lacrosse: It’s a position where your opponent slings a hard rubber ball at you, and the goal certainly isn’t to get out of the way. The South Forsyth junior’s primary position at the time was in the midfield, because her height made her particularly good on the draw, so when Casey first started playing goalie, in middle school, she was just part of the rotation of players on her team that were thrown into goal.
“I wanted to have as much protection on my body as possible,” Casey said. “Because (when) you’re little, you don’t want to get hit, just because it’s a scary thing.”
But one thing quickly outweighed the fear: In Casey’s first game, she did really well, enough for her teammates and coaches to notice, and that was motivation enough to stay at goalie. After that, Casey was in the goal on a more regular basis, and it wasn’t long into her freshman season at South that she became the War Eagles’ full-time goalie.
Now she’s an All-State performer, having made the second team in Class 6-7A in 2018 after saving 50% of the shots that came her way, and a future college athlete, committed to play at Mercer.
“Kayla is definitely committed to it, and takes pride and is very passionate about being a goalie and being successful,” War Eagles head coach Travis Pearre said. “And she works hard. It’s amazing sometimes how hard she works in that job.”
Goalie, in some ways, is a perfect fit for Casey in a personal sense. She describes herself as outgoing and “a ball of energy,” and that manifests in her vocal nature as a leader on defense, directing and aligning her teammates. She’s the same way in basketball, where she’s one of the top defensive players on the War Eagles’ varsity team.
Leadership is one essential intangible for a successful lacrosse goalie, and confidence is another. That can be a difficult thing to maintain in lacrosse, where goals are inevitable and goalies often face multiple difficult one-on-one situations off penalties, and it’s something Casey struggled with at times as an underclassman.
“There have been games when the team would get a four-goal run, and I’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is wrong with me? Come on, get your head in the game,’” Casey said. “It takes some of my defenders to be like, ‘It’s okay, Kayla, you’ve got the next one.’”
Since then, Casey has gotten much better at moving on from goals, whether from simple experience or evidence that she can stop some of the best teams around. Her 14-save performance last year against Milton, the defending state champs, was one of the best individual showings of the season.
“She played lights out in those games,” Pearre said. “…It showed that she was growing.”
At this point, the fear is almost gone for Casey, taken over by her love for the game and hunger for winning. If she takes a shot square, it won’t hurt forever.
“I don’t really mind getting hit by the balls, because it doesn’t really affect me,” Casey said. “… You get those nasty bruises, but it’s not too bad.”