Before her season even started, there was the possibility that Kaitlin Schmidt wouldn’t even play in a game.
After tearing cartilage and the meniscus in her right knee and having surgery during the summer, Schmidt faced the possibility of not even suiting up in her first collegiate season.
So when the freshman was named Big East Rookie of the Year last week at the conference’s end-of-the-year awards banquet, it was something the Centereach, N.Y., native had no aspirations of during preseason workouts.
“At the beginning of the season, no, because I didn’t even know if I was going to play with my knee,” Schmidt said. “Towards the end of the season, Coach was kind of like, ‘you have a chance to do it, you might get it.'”
The chance was a gamble taken by both Schmidt and Head Coach Ian Stone.
Knowing that she wasn’t completely healthy, Stone started the year by picking his spots with the rookie, making sure she didn’t injure herself any further.
“I thought we’d have to take it more slowly than we did with her,” Stone said. “But I always knew she was a talented player. You know someone’s a talented youth player and high school player but you don’t know how they’re going to make that transition, so it’s a bit of a gamble.”
The gamble paid off, and Schmidt went on to have the best season by a St. John’s freshman. Her 10 goals were second on the team and the second-most by a SJU freshman.
Her 26 points were the most ever by a Storm newcomer, and she tied for the team lead with six assists.
Those lofty numbers placed Schmidt in the top 10 of several Big East categories.
During the season, she was a two-time Big East Rookie of the Week, as well as earning weekly honors from Soccer America and Soccer Buzz.
“There’s a little pressure,” Schmidt said, “but as long as my team does well, I really don’t care about the awards.”
Schmidt becomes the first St. John’s player to win any of the conference’s major awards, and is just the second Johnnie, along with Francesca DeCristoforo in 1997, to make an All-Big East team.
They were both named to the second team in their respective seasons.
“Normally, the Rookie of the Year is someone who has a huge reputation coming in,” Stone said, “which she didn’t really have, which makes it even more amazing that she won.”
As the Big East Rookie of the Year, Schmidt garnered a spot on the All-Rookie Team, joining teammate Courtney Rett (2000) and former St. John’s standout Jaime Clark (1997) as the only Red Storm players to do so.
All the hard work and sacrifice culminated last week in front of the best the Big East has to offer.
“You’re in that room with all those great players and those great teams,” Stone said, “and to have her announced as the Rookie of the Year is a great honor for our program.”
Schmidt accomplished all of this despite the pain in her knee that remained throughout the season.
On a squad where injuries seemed to be commonplace, there would be no sitting out when a game was approaching.
“I played through a lot of pain but I was always taught to just play,” Schmidt said. “I’ll play through the pain, that’s how bad I wanted to play.
“I’ll play through anything.”