Randi Palacios hasn’t seen the field a whole lot for UConn women’s soccer. That doesn’t mean she’s been the backup goalkeeper her first two seasons and hasn’t seen game action. No, she has barely played at all — games or practices — since she arrived in Storrs.
Palacios injured her knee as a freshman and missed the season. The recovery took a while and affected her all the way through this past season as she struggled to get back in playing shape after so much time off.
“She was with us for two years and we hadn’t really seen her play so we didn’t really know what we had to work with,” head coach Margaret Rodriguez said. “The only thing she’s been missing is the experience in practice and the experience in games.”
It wasn’t until this past spring that Palacios was back to full strength and practiced with the team. It didn’t take long for her to show why she was recruited by UConn in the first place and she parlayed the strong spring into camp, where she won the job over fellow redshirt sophomore Mollie Kerrigan.
“This spring was great for us to get her out there finally training for a whole training session and she got a couple games under her belt,” Rodriguez said. “Randi has definitely shown us qualities. We can play through her and she can play us out of the back, which we like about her.”
However, Palacios doesn’t view herself as the undisputed starter. Kerrigan started games last season before starter Courtney Hofer returned from injury and Rodriguez said the two will compete all season.
“I think Mollie and I definitely compete and I think it’s going to be good to see this year,” Palacios said. “We have different styles of play and we both have strengths and weaknesses. We’re just going to duke it out and that’s the best part: The camaraderie, the competitive side of it.”
While it was tough to watch from the sidelines for two seasons, it would’ve been tough to crack the lineup anyways. The Huskies had two top-notch goalkeepers in Emily Armstrong and Courtney Hofer, both of whom are playing professionally abroad. Palacios was able to watch and learn from two keepers with different styles.
“Coming in, Emily was definitely an influence,” Palacios said. “She was a force to be reckoned with. She always had a smile on her face, always loved the game, she made me appreciate a little bit more of the game and appreciate my health and my own teammates.
“Courtney brought some command in back and I feel like I learned more of her communication style. I felt like before I had that communication style but with her it developed a little bit more.”
Having some veteran leadership was important since Palacios hails from Vienna, Virginia, which isn’t exactly close to Storrs. It was a big decision to come to UConn and while it was tough at times, it’s a decision Palacios wouldn’t hesitate to make again.
“I’ve always had a strong support system through everything, I can definitely say with this team it’s one of the best I’ve been on through my whole soccer playing career. Always a family, always supportive,” she said. “You sacrifice but at the end of the day, this is what we love and this is what we do and we’ve committed our whole lives to it.
“I wouldn’t change it for a second.”