2012-02-16 / Sports
Buckley is the bomb
Oaks Christian senior soccer standout draws rave reviews
Kaycee Buckley, that is.
The OCHS senior has excelled on the soccer pitch this season, guiding the Lion girls to a Tri-Valley League championship and the No. 1 seed in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.
Oaks Christian’s leader in goals (24) and assists (16), Buckley is characterized by head coach Sebastian Alvarado as a being a tough- minded, team- first playmaker whose skills are already college-level quality.
“ She controls the ball really well and can shoot with both feet,” Alvarado said. “She can also pass the ball with ease along the front line. . . .
“The other girls really respect the way she plays.”
Teammates pile plenty of praise on the versatile centermidfi elder/forward.
Prior to Monday’s windswept practice session, sophomore forward Alexandra Bruder called Buckley “the most amazing girl ever.”
Said Bruder: “Kaycee just brings an attitude that makes everyone else want to play and want to do well. She’s always positive and always knows exactly what to say. She motivated me so much this year and helped me through everything I had to go through being a younger player on the team.”
Senior forward Bianca Deardorff, who’s played high school and club soccer with Buckley since they were kids, said her close friend’s loyalty is unmatched.
“Kaycee is the girl you can call in the middle of the night,” Deardorff said. “She’s always there for you.”
Buckley, 18, is in her fourth year on the Lions’ varsity roster.
Life on the pitch wasn’t always so grand for this OCHS star.
Prior to her sophomore season, Buckley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee while competing for her Real So Cal club team.
Following surgery, she missed the entire high school campaign.
Rather than knocking in goals and dropping pin-point passes on the feet of her friends, Buckley was relegated to sophomore stat duty from the Lions’ sideline.
“I didn’t think I was going to get a college scholarship or anything like that,” Buckley said. “I thought I was done. I thought I would never be the same player I was before I got hurt.”
Rehabilitating the injury wasn’t a joyful experience, she recalls, but Buckley eventually took solace in the fact that one of her older sisters, Kim, a Thousand Oaks High graduate, had battled back from two knee surgeries during her days on the pitch.
All told, it took Buckley 12 months to return to soccer.
“I stuck with it,” she said. “I came back, and I think I’ve developed into a better player than I was before, especially mentally.
“I’ve just become stronger. And I ended up with a college scholarship. Things just tend to work out the way they do for a reason.”
Buckley, who recently signed a National Letter of Intent with the University of Utah, admits she wasn’t at full strength during her junior season with the Lions.
“ I was probably close to 70 percent,” she said.
In the back of Buckley’s mind at the time there were still concerns about diving defenders crashing into her right knee.
But the more she played, the more her confidence grew.
Then, as everything was coming together and Oaks Christian qualified to play in last year’s CIF-SS Division 4 title match against Canyon Springs, Buckley contacted a nasty case of E. coli food poising from a fast-food establishment in Paso Robles.
She was traveling home with her father from a recruiting trip to Cal-Berkeley at the time.
Instead of spending championship week prepping for the biggest match of her high school career, Buckley was in pain making medical appointments.
Buckley didn’t travel on the team bus to the final in Mission Viejo and wasn’t in the starting lineup.
Just after kickoff—after another trip to her doctor—Buckley showed up on the Lions’ sideline and began warming up.
Alvarado subbed her in a few minutes after the match started.
“I was very impressed with her effort,” the coach said.
So were Buckley’s teammates.
“She was so sick that she could barely walk,” Bruder said. “But she went in with everything she had and made a difference in that game. It was so inspiring. It made me want to try even harder.”
Added Deardorff: “For her to play though her sickness was amazing. But she’s always been like that, always been such a team player.”
Final score: Oaks Christian 2, Canyon Springs 0.
Buckley was born and raised in Westlake and has three older sisters—Kim, Katie and Kelly— as well as a younger sister, Karlie.
When it came to picking a college, Buckley could’ve played it safe and stayed in state to be closer to her parents, Lisa and Charles.
She says she chose Utah because it offered many unknowns— no friends, no family, far from home and a chance to find her way in the world.
“Going there takes me out of my comfort zone,” said Buckley, who’s considering studying kinesiology. “Cal-Berkeley would’ve been a comfort zone for me. I have a lot of family up there; it’s a beautiful place; I would have fit right in.
“But I feel like I need to mix it up a little bit. At Utah, the vibe was there. People are really, really cool. The facilities are great. The program is developing, and I want to be a part of a program that is coming up in the Pac-12. It’s a great opportunity for me.”
Let the journey begin.