College goalkeeper Gabby Calidonio will play for Florida Elite's USL W team.
It didn’t take long for Flagler Palm Coast High School girls soccer coach Pete Hald and assistant Cat Bradley to see that Gabby Calidonio was a natural goalkeeper.
It took a little longer for Calidonio to see it.
“It was hard for me to give up playing in the field, but I realized I could help the team more in the net,” said Calidonio, who is coming off an outstanding freshman season at Division II Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.
Calidonio started 14 games for the Ravens last fall. She saved 67 shots, allowed just 10 goals and recorded four shutouts. She was named to the Northeast-10 Conference’s weekly honor roll six times.
This summer, she will play in the inaugural season of the USL W league for Florida Elite Soccer Academy in Jacksonville. The USL W is a pre-professional women’s league for college players who are identified as future professional prospects.
The season will run from May 21 to July 1 with Florida Elite playing its home games at Jacksonville Mandarin and Creekside high schools.
“I never was trained as a goalkeeper. So, I decided to try out for Florida Elite’s ECNL team (at keeper). I realized that goalkeeper could take me to the farthest level possible.”
Calidonio played on Florida Elite Soccer Academy's Elite Clubs National League team in high school.
“They said I’d be a great asset to their team,” she said. “This is a really good opportunity for college athletes who want to play beyond college and play against some really good players.”
She is one of three goalkeepers on Florida Elite’s roster. The team’s first practice was May 10, but because of her final exam schedule, she was scheduled to arrive in Florida on May 12.
“I get back to Florida, and I have to drive right to practice,” she said.
Calidonio was a defender before she was asked to play goalkeeper on FPC’s JV team when she was a freshman.
“We needed a goalkeeper on JV,” Bradley said. “Gabby was naturally athletic. She had the gift of height. She was a great defender, but when she was in goal, she was really good. Coach Hald and I pestered her a little bit. That first year, there were so many times she would say, ‘Coach Cat, can I go in the field?’ It’s crazy how it worked out.”
After her freshman season, Hald told her, “You’re going to be (the varsity) goalie next season.”
At that point, she decided she’d better really learn the position.
“I never was trained as a goalkeeper,” she said. “So, I decided to try out for Florida Elite’s ECNL team. I realized that goalkeeper could take me to the farthest level possible.”
Calidonio was a three-year starter in goal for the Bulldogs.
“She kept us in so many games,” Bradley said. “She was good in the air and didn’t mind going to the ground. She was a leader too. She was a great teammate.”
Calidonio said her experience as a defender helps her communicate better with the players on the field.
“I can relate to the girls,” she said. “I was in their position. I know how hard it is to get back.”
Bradley said the USL W is lucky to have her.
“I’m super proud of her,” Bradley said. “It’s exciting to see all the hard work pay off. When you’re a college athlete, that schedule is brutal. Gabby did so well in her freshman season, and she kept her grades up.”