'Change Of Plans’ Pushes Richey In Senior Season
By Mason Kelley
Spencer Richey had a plan. It was the start of the 2013 season and the senior had the next year of his life mapped out. From his living situation to school and a potential future in the MLS, the goalkeeper knew exactly where he was and what came next.
Then – four games into the season – he broke his leg.
All of a sudden, Richey was forced to adjust to a “change of plans in every way.”
As the Huskies marched to their first trip to the Elite 8, their senior keeper was forced to watch from the sideline. But, instead of drowning in depression over what was taken away, he found a renewed appreciation for the game and the program.
“It’s one of those things where sometimes you lose a bit of appreciation for how lucky and fortunate you are to play college soccer, especially at a school like this,” Richey said.
The injury was the first major soccer setback for Richey. It forced him to reorganize “every part of my life.” While he missed a year, he believes he is in a better place because of the experience.
The journey back provides a daily reminder to make the most of each opportunity he is presented with.
“Maybe I should be a little more appreciative,” he often thinks to himself. “Maybe I should have done a little more yesterday. Maybe I should do a little bit more tomorrow.”
Given a second shot at a senior season, Richey has regained the form that made him one of the nation’s best.
“With each game my confidence has grown,” he said. “I’m comfortable going into each game and I’m like, ‘Oh man, I got a little bit better that game, a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more decisive.’”
Before Sunday’s second-round matchup with Furman in the NCAA tournament, Washington coach Jamie Clark said it was imperative for a program to ride a “hot keeper” in the postseason.
After playing to a scoreless draw in regulation and overtime, it was Richey who delivered in penalty kicks, making a pair of pivotal saves to lead the Huskies past the Paladins.
After making the game-clinching save, Richey said he was overcome with “pure joy” as his teammates rushed toward him.
“It’s a pretty surreal feeling, and I’m happy I could do it,” he said.
Now Richey and the Huskies are headed to the Sweet 16 to play Michigan State but, at the start of the season, there was no guarantee he would be the program’s starter.
While Richey was injured, sophomore transfer Ryan Herman filled in admirably. In fact, he played so well Clark told his keepers the spot was “up in the air” when practices started.
As the teammates battled, Washington’s coach knew he needed to make a decision, despite watching two players who seemed equally capable of leading the program deep into the postseason.
Clark went with the senior.
“I enjoy having a guy in his last year,” he said. “I love seniors. I love redshirt seniors, because they have a different mindset. All of their preparation in the offseason is singular. All of their game focus is on point and it’s just a different mentality that younger guys can have, because it is their last go.”
When Herman – a local product who played high school soccer at Mount Si – transferred from Santa Clara, he expected to play behind Richey for a season. Then Herman was thrust into the starting job. As a competitor, he wasn’t thrilled about returning to the bench as a junior, but when Clark made the decision to start Richey, Herman focused on keeping his teammate on top of his game, while remaining prepared in case he was thrust into action.
“He (Richey) is the best keeper in the country,” Herman said. “It would be somewhat like if you were a quarterback and playing behind Jameis Winston. You’re going to be mad, because you’re not playing, but at the same time, he’s one of the best players in the country, regardless of position.
“If you’re going to play behind someone, it might as well be him.”
The Huskies are fortunate enough to have a third keeper, Auden Schilder, who is so talented Clark has considered using him in shootout situations. Having three capable keepers is a nice problem for the program.
“If you have guys who are that good around you, they’re pushing you,” Herman said. “If you have an off day or take a day off, then you’ve got a guy barking from behind you and one who is pushing you from the front. It’s great having two of the best keepers in the country playing with me.”
But, while there are three talented keepers on Washington’s roster, the job belongs to Richey through the NCAA tournament. He is making the most of his final season. He has been the hot keeper Clark was looking for, a player pushed by the appreciation gained from a season on the sideline.