Karsen Gildea has stood tall in Ocean Springs' goal for four years.
After graduating plenty of offensive punch from last year's Class 6A South State champs, OSHS coach Patrick Hayes knew his team would have to win a different way this year.
The 2015-16 Sun Herald Girls Soccer Player of the Year and two-time All-South Mississippi selection enabled the Lady Greyhounds to adjust their lineup and make a run to the South State title game.
"There's no way you can replace some of the seniors we lost. We knew goal production was going to go down. That was inevitable, but knowing we could stay in the game and keep the other team from scoring was big," Hayes said. "Her teammates believed in her and knew they could trust her. They knew they could take calculated risks and she would have their back. She was a safety net, which allowed me to put players in more attacking roles this year, where they may have been defenders otherwise."
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This past season, Gildea posted 15 wins and seven shutouts, making 81 saves while recording a 1.01 goals against average.
Gildea has started since her freshman year. Hayes points to her early playing time as an important stretch during Gildea's development.
"I think that's what helped her as a freshman. Winning a state title just boosted her confidence," Hayes said. "She grew as a leader. You always look for your goalkeeper to be a leader. By the time she hit her junior season, she had full command of her team and was a presence on and off the field."
Asked to describe Gildea, Hayes can rattle off adjective after adjective. Tough, strong-willed, ultra competitive, athletic and sure-handed are just a few.
"She's one of the stronger athletes I've had come through Ocean Springs. That's not only because of her natural born skill, but she works hard," Hayes said. "She reads the game well. Over the last four years she has really learned how to read the game and know what to look for in a certain situation. She studies the game and is always asking questions."
It's because of those attributes that Gildea's soccer playing days aren't over. The OSHS senior has signed to play at Pearl River Community College, where she'll look to continue her winning ways at the next level.
"She knows what it takes to be a winner," Hayes said. "She can be proud of what she accomplished."