Cara Connatser always knew she wanted to be the Longhorns’ starting goalkeeper.
But up until a week ago, the senior from Frisco had never played a single minute throughout her Texas career.
That all changed last Friday night when Texas opened its season at home versus Seattle with Connatser guarding the net.
“I’ve bled orange since I was born, so this has been a dream of mine since I can remember,” Connatser said. “To have the first start, that was everything to me.”
Connatser spent the first three years of her career on the 40 Acres backing up former standout Abby Smith, who ranks first in program history in shutouts (30) and fourth in saves (300).
The two goalkeepers go as far back as their high school days when both played for the same club team. Connatser credits Smith as a mentor both on and off the pitch.
“Nobody knows Abby Smith in the goalkeeping position on the playing field better than Cara Connatser,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “There’s a wealth of knowledge that she’s adopted from Smith, from a training aspect as well as from a competitive and tactical aspect.”
By the time Connatser committed to Texas, Smith had already firmly cemented herself as the Longhorns’ starting goalkeeper. Connatser says Kelly even warned her that she might not play until her senior year.
But the blunt realization did not phase her for a second. She compares her situation to the movie “Rudy” — the main character of the football film had to wait for his final game to see the field.
“I was like, well, then you have the best ‘Rudy’ you’ve ever seen in your entire life because I’m going to keep working day in and day out to make this team better,” Connatser said. “This is my dream. This team has been my dream.”
There’s still no guarantee as to who Texas will turn to as its long-term solution in front of the net, especially this early in the season. The Longhorns feature three other goalkeepers on the roster, including senior Paige Brown, junior Taylor Braun and freshman Nicole Curry. Brown transferred from Louisville and Braun transferred from Kentucky.
“At this point, it is practice-to-practice and game-to-game until we have someone that just is a consistent, outright winner of the position,” Kelly said.
Whether it’s Connatser who gets another start or an audition for a different goalkeeper, the Longhorns will be at home with matchups against College of Charleston and Detroit this weekend. Texas lost its season opener last Friday to Seattle, 1-0, despite having seven more shots.
“We just need to finish,” senior midfielder Julia Dyche said. “We created a lot of opportunities, and so we just know that we need to get on the board. We can’t let teams hang around. We have to put teams away as soon
Texas faces Charleston on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Detroit on Sunday at 2 p.m.