Watching Jamie Skarupsky play goalie for the Robbinsville High girls’ soccer team, it’s hard to believe she was ever jittery in the nets.
But she was.
For one game.
“The first game I ever started on varsity I was a little shaky and a little nervous,” Skarupsky said. “After that I realized game it was the game I was playing my whole life and I had to suck it up and play against harder competition.”
Since having that little talk with herself, Skarupsky has been one stellar keeper for the Ravens, a senior now in her third year as the starter.
“She’s extremely athletic,” said Caitlyn Curran, a former Ravens assistant now in her first year as head coach. “Just looking at her you can say, ‘This girl’s got talent.’ She’s very aggressive in the net, which makes her so good. She’s fearless and to be honest, our games (through a 2-0-1 start) have all been tied or within one goal. Without her, undoubtedly we would have lost those games. She’s a key player.”
She will have her for one more season before Skarupsky takes her talents to Old Dominion University, where she hopes to vie for a starting position next year. ODU’s incumbent starter graduates, and neither of the two remining goalies have much college match experience.
“It will be an even playing field because no will have started a college game (providing that doesn’t change this season),” said Skarupsky, who has a 3.5 GPA and is looking into studying communications in college. “I knew I wanted to go to a southern school, so I was looking at Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, Florida. I happened to come across ODU and right when I got on campus I fell in love with it. It’s like family there. The coaches and players were all family-oriented.”
It was family ties that got Jamie into the goal to begin with. As a 7-year-old playing in the Robbinsville Recreation League, Skarupsky played for her dad, who told her she was tall so she should go in goal.
“It just stuck from there,” she said. “I started out with travel with the Hamilton Wildcats, went to Bordentown, won states in 2015 with the Freehold Celtic and now I’m at Toms River Everton Elite.”
When Skarupsky got to high school, her goal was just to “have fun and play soccer.” She did exactly that in ninth grade, playing on the freshman and JV team, which she feels helped her development. Even at that early stage, then-head coach Karen DeRosset and Curran liked what they saw.
“We knew off the bat that she was gonna do big things for us based off of her physical ability and her tactical understanding of the game,” Curran said. “We knew from the get-go this is gonna be a great four years, and she’s definitely going to be hard to replace.”
The Ravens went 11-8-1 last year and won the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship before losing a heart-breaker to Haddonfield in the state semifinals. The Bulldawgs scored in the game’s 65th minute for a 1-0 victory.
“Losing that game was probably the hardest loss I ever had, knowing we worked so hard to get there,” Skarupsky said. “This year we’re working hard to make a comeback. We only lost four seniors.”
One of the key returnees, who Curran feels is a key contributor in front of Skarupsky, is junior center back Macie Renner.
“She’s another kid that just knows the game inside and out,” Curran said. “You can see on her face during the game, when the ball’s not even near her, that she’s looking ahead to see what’s happening with the forward running forward, and where she needs to be in relation to ball. She always comes out with the ball. It’s mind blowing to me that a ball in the air or a ball being placed, she always comes out with it. She’s relentless, she’s got speed, so when she does get beat she finds a way to get back and find the ball.”
Skarupsky praised her entire defense and agreed with her coach that Renner has raised her game this year. But when the defense falters, it’s nice to know they have a talent like Jamie to bail them out.
Curran feels her keeper’s tenacity is one thing that makes her great.
“If something goes wrong, her head never drops. She’s back in it. She’s letting the rest of the team know ‘C’mon girls we’ve got this, let’s go!’” she said.
Confidence helps Skarupsky be aggressive and take chances.
“I never really thought to back down against a challenge,” Skarupsky said. “Every game, someone is coming at me one on one. I’m always trying my best to stop them.”
Skarupsky realizes that making saves is only part of her job. She prides herself on being able to control her box and organize defenders.
“You learn leadership, especially at the goalie position because you see the entire field,” she said. “At a young age my coaches always told me ‘You’re gonna be the captain; we see leadership in you.’ A goalie is someone who has leadership and someone who’s not afraid to take charge or go out of the box. You have to be controlling.”
Curran definitely has no issues with Skarupsky’s abilities in that area.
“I can count on her to consistently communicate through the entire game,” the coach said. “She’s somebody on the field I don’t worry about … I’m going to miss her. She’s done great things for this program.”