Gardus excels in first year at UC
Kelly Gardus has only been on the campus of Ursinus College for a few months. She is preparing for her first winter break and plans to spend time back home in the Lehigh Valley in a couple of weeks.
Despite only being a member of the Bears’ women’s soccer team for a short time, Gardus has been impressive on the pitch. The freshman played in 14 of Ursinus’ 17 games—including two starts—and scored five goals as the Bears finished the fall season at 8-7-1.
“Playing soccer at the college level is so different than playing in high school,” Gardus said. “I actually went back to one of Salisbury’s games in the fall and watching it felt so different. The college game is much faster paced and is very high-pressured.
“I surprisingly felt very comfortable [this season]. I was always really nervous before stepping onto the field, but once I was out there playing I felt very composed.”
After starting for a number of years at Salisbury on the varsity stage, Gardus’ role in her first college season was off the bench. It’s what she expected coming into her collegiate career with a talented returning group and seven other freshmen playing the forward position.
But when Gardus’ number was called, she delivered a spark for her team time and time again. Her five goals were the second-most on the team, only behind her former Falcon and current Bear teammate, senior forward Mackenzie Groff. Groff led the Bears with six goals and a team-high 13 points.
“I was always nervous coming off the bench, especially when we needed to score,” Gardus said. “You’re not completely warmed up and you hope you can just fit into the action of the field. I was happy I could help when we needed goals.
“This was the second time Mackenzie was a captain to me, which is awesome because she is such a great leader on and off the field. She taught me a lot about the fitness level we were expected to be at coming into preseason and pretty much answered any question I had.”
Gardus even seemed to be more comfortable as the season winded down. She scored three of her goals in the final two games, including a two-goal, one-assist effort against Bryn Mawr in the regular season finale.
Ursinus finished 4-6 in the Centennial Conference after just two conference wins in the prior season.
And for Gardus, her career has started off much like Groff’s did four years ago. Groff mirrored Gardus’ five goals as a freshman and added four assists before capping her career with 16 goals and seven assists.
“I did not expect much success right away because eight of the 10 freshmen this year were forwards on top of the ones we already had,” Gardus said. “I figured it would be difficult to get playing time.
“My goals for next year are to exceed my five goals and one assist and hopefully get a shot at the Centennial Conference playoffs.”