CHEYENNE – Caely Pickerd suffered a number of concussions when she collided with other players while trying to make saves during her days suiting up for the Laramie Blizzard youth teams.

Those concussions forced Pickerd to hang up her goalkeeping gloves prior to her freshman season at Laramie High. They also kept her off the basketball court her senior year, which was another area where she had previously stood out athletically.

Pickerd loved soccer. She kept an eye on the world’s biggest club leagues and international competitions even though she focused on volleyball and track in high school. She had come to terms with the fact her soccer days were behind her.

That changed only a few weeks into this year when Laramie County Community College women’s soccer coach Nate Ulness asked her if she would be interested in pulling on her gloves once LCCC’s volleyball season ended.

The Golden Eagles had two keepers on their roster when they started preseason practice, but sophomore Nia Trejo suffered a torn knee ligament during the fall. Ulness scrambled to find another keeper just in case anything happened to sophomore Larissa Sitzler.

Pickerd has since appeared in three matches for LCCC. She started the past two matches after Sitzler was sidelined due to a season-ending injury. Pickerd has five saves this season, and has allowed two goals.

The No. 6-ranked Eagles (10-1) open Region IX tournament play by hosting Northwest College at 1 p.m. today.

“There was a little rust when she first started practicing with us, but it has been coming back to her pretty quickly,” said Ulness, who is in his first season at LCCC. “She brings a real positive attitude, and her teammates love her. We trust her back there.”

Pickerd’s first appearance came during the second half of an April 19 blowout victory over Central Wyoming.

“I was pretty nervous when I ran out there because it had been so long since I last played, but it was a lot of fun,” Pickerd said. “I missed soccer so much. I really love the sport. I didn’t quit playing soccer because I didn’t love it, I quit because it was the best thing for my health.”

Pickerd qualified for the Class 4A state track meet all four years of her prep career, and placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles as a senior. She started her college volleyball career at Presentation College, which is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics member in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She redshirted for the Saints before deciding to transfer to LCCC.

Pickerd appeared in five volleyball matches during her first season with the Eagles, but started 21 of the 22 matches she played in this season. The 5-foot-11 middle blocker and right side hitter tallied 66 kills and 34 blocks.

She hopes to continue her volleyball career, but has struggled to find a new home because so many four-year schools have unsettled rosters thanks to players being offered an additional season of eligibility because of seasons being altered or canceled due to COVID-19.

Pickerd’s background and athleticism have helped her get up to speed relatively quickly.

“There are some small things I had to be reminded about, but there was a lot of stuff I still remembered,” Pickerd said. “There are some areas where my volleyball skills translate.

“Reps have been the most important thing. I can usually realize how I messed up and what I need to do to fix it.”

Eagles goalkeepers coach Kay Olivas describes Pickerd as an eager learner.

“Goalkeeping is such a technical position and when you don’t do it for a while, you lose quite a bit,” Olivas said. “She definitely had rust, but she has really been focusing on her hands, extending her arms and making herself as big as she can.

“She is willing to do whatever she can to help this team.”

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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