Conestoga's Luckenbill to play final pro soccer game against Independence

Goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill of Sky Blue FC, a Conestoga grad, will play her last game against the Independence.
Goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill of Sky Blue FC, a Conestoga grad, will play her last game against the Independence.
Posted: July 24, 2010

Kristin Luckenbill is returning to the area Saturday for both a homecoming and an expected farewell. An alumnus of Conestoga High, Luckenbill will be playing what she expects to be her final game as New Jersey's Sky Blue FC visits the Independence in Saturday's 7 p.m. Women's Professional Soccer matchup at West Chester University.

Pressed into the starting goalkeeping role after regular Karen Bardsley suffered a broken clavicle while participating in an all-star practice last month, Luckenbill says she expects Saturday to be her final game before continuing her education.

"This is probably my last game," Luckenbill said in a phone interview. "The only thing that would change is if they really need me for a game."

The regular season doesn't end until Sept. 11, but Luckenbill is leaving early to pursue her master's degree at the University of Virginia business school.

Her first class is scheduled for Aug. 9.

"This is something I have been thinking about for a long time," said Luckenbill, who received her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth. "After last season I thought it was a good time for applying for schools, and Virginia was my first choice and when I got accepted I was excited."

The 31-year-old Luckenbill has enjoyed a celebrated career, which includes serving as a member of the 2004 gold-medal U.S. Olympic team.

She also played in the Women's United Soccer Association. In 2002, Luckenbill was named WUSA goalkeeper of the year for the league-champion Carolina Courage.

Last year when WPS was formed, Luckenbill played for the Boston Breakers, appearing in 10 games and recording two shutouts.

She originally wasn't going to play this season, but then was contacted by Sky Blue and decided to join, although she told the team at the time that she wouldn't be able to finish the season due to her schooling.

"She is a terrific professional and will be a big loss for WPS both on and off the field," Independence coach Paul Riley said of Luckenbill.

In four games this season for Sky Blue, Luckenbill has a 1.75 goals-against average and one shutout.

If it is her final game, she is happy that it will be so close to home.

"I kind of like it and it's nice," she said. "It is where I grew up and started playing soccer and my family will be there."

This will be an important game for both teams. The Independence (6-5-3) have lost two in a row and are in second place of the seven-team league with 21 points, 13 behind California's FC Gold Pride.

According to Riley, defenders Heather Mitts (thigh strain) and Sara Larsson (groin) are out.

Sky Blue (5-6-3) has 18 points. The top four teams will earn playoff spots. For now, Luckenbill is just focused on winning her next and likely last game.

"I'm sure I will miss playing," Luckenbill said. "But this is a great opportunity for me and I'm looking forward to it."

Feeling Blue. Earlier this week, Sky Blue made a coaching change, the fifth for the two-year-old franchise. Pauliina Miettinen, who was hired in September, was fired and replaced by assistant coach Rick Stainton.

Christie Rampone, who was named player-coach and guided Sky Blue to last year's WPS title, missed the beginning of the season due to the birth of her second child. She is now back playing.

Delran High graduate Carli Lloyd still hasn't played since suffering a broken ankle in the third game of the season. She will not play.


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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