It was quite the roundabout trip for UConn women’s soccer goalkeeper Courtney Hofer to end up in Storrs. A native of Farmington, Hofer committed to TCU out of high school and left home to go halfway across the country to pursue her dream of playing college soccer.
Over her three seasons there, she amassed 72 saves but started just 18 games as she split time with other keepers. Without a secure role for her for her senior season, Hofer decided to transfer.
“I think it was time. TCU is a great program and I have all the respect in the world for them but it was time to move on,” Hofer said. “I was 1,700 miles away for the last three years. It’s really hard.”
Hofer reached out to the UConn coaching staff to gauge their interest and as it turned out, it was a perfect match for both sides.
The Huskies needed to replace Emily Armstrong in goal, but didn’t have a clear successor on the roster. Because of this, Hofer could step in as the day one starter.
With that, Hofer came home for her final season. She enrolled in UConn for the spring semester, allowing her to play with her new teammates before the real season rolled around.
However, she went down with an injury and was forced to the sideline once again. The injury lingered into the regular season and eventually forced her to miss the entire non-conference schedule — over half the year.
At a certain point, it was worth asking if Hofer should even return this season or just redshirt and prepare for next year.
“It was hard to sit there,” Hofer said. “It was frustrating because there were times I didn’t know if I’d be out there again.”
However, both Hofer and the team’s medical staff worked tirelessly to get her back on the field, and she finally made her debut in the Huskies’ second conference matchup against Cincinnati on Sep. 28.
Her presence in net has been a huge boost to a young UConn team that has struggled with inconsistency much of the season.
“When she came in, the whole shape of the defense was immediately better. Everybody was communicating better,” senior midfielder Sabrina Toole said. “We finally have a voice back there and when I play in the middle, I can hear her clearly. I know exactly where to be.”
Head coach Len Tsantiris echoed those sentiments.
“[Courtney brings] maturity, experience, composure; She calms everyone down,” he said. “She’s a leader. We need somebody like that with a young team. With her, we play with authority and confidence.”
As impressive as Hofer’s skills in net have been, her leadership has stood out the most. After a tough 1-0 loss to Cincinnati, the keeper gathered the team around — sans coaches. She spoke passionately and held the full attention of every one of her teammates.
For most, it would be difficult to command that respect after just arriving a few months prior. But Hofer doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think it really matters how long you’ve been somewhere,” she said. “At the end of the day I’ve been in college for three and a half years so I’ve been there, done that and it was just time to step up and we needed some leadership.”
With just five regular season games left, Hofer knows the sun is setting on her career. However, there’s nowhere she’d rather spend her final minutes in net.
“I’ve been playing this game forever, but I don’t have much time left,” she admitted. “It’s awesome to pull on the jersey that says ‘UConn’ on it and play for something that’s meaningful.”