Former Lumberjack Wildlife Major and Goalkeeper, Katie Talbert spent four years patrolling and defending the nets at College Creek Field and now finds herself with the opportunity of a lifetime: an invitation to preseason training camp with Seattle’s OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Beginning February 1, The trial pits Talbert against some of the best young talent in the nation for a chance to play at the sport’s highest level domestically.
“I’m just so excited to be able to train with professional soccer players,” Talbert said in an exclusive interview. “It’s just taking one more step higher in the competition that I’m not used to and I’m super ready for the challenge.”
Soccer comes naturally to Talbert, who started playing at age four. At age 11, she played competitively, alternating between field and part-time goal keeper. When she was 14, her club team converted her to a full-time goal keeper because there were no other players at the position.
“I started playing and I just picked it up really fast, and so they were like, ‘oh you’re good at this, we’re just gonna keep you at goalkeeper,’” Talbert said. “I was a fast learner on how to play that position.”
“And then I just kept playing,” Talbert said. “I just enjoyed it because I like throwing my body in the air…which is fun.”
The position change helped the Sacramento native accomplish another one of her childhood goals: to play soccer at the collegiate level. After decommitting from Sonoma State her junior year of high school, Talbert found Humboldt as the place she wanted to be.
“I’ve always wanted to play college soccer,” Talbert said. “I contacted them [Humboldt] because they had a wildlife major and I always wanted to be a wildlife major from when I was a little kid.”
While at Humboldt, Talbert proved crucial as a defensive specialist, earning all-CCAA honorable mention honors in 2017. Her height, athleticism and fearlessness proved to be vital assets on the field.
During the off-season, she trained and played with the Sacramento-based California Storm of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). The semi-professional team, which boasts distinguished and accomplished alumni such as USWNT member Alex Morgan, gave Talbert another opportunity to improve her skills.
“Every summer I’d go home and play with them, and I found that team has helped me a lot [to] get better,” Talbert said. “A lot of the girls on the team are ex-pros or DI [Division I] college girls, so I think that’s been a level up in competition.”
Storm Head Coach and Executive Director Jamie Levoy, who has known and coached Talbert the past four summers, feels that she has all the tools necessary to be successful at the next level.
“She’s versatile,” said Levoy. “She knows how to read the game beyond the goal keeper. She makes fearless decisions.”
As one of the few invitees to come from a small Division II school, Talbert noted that there is a bit of a chip on her shoulder going up against women from a variety of esteemed universities.
“I’m pretty sure most if not all of the other girls coming in for the preseason and trials are all from DI schools,” Talbert said. “I really feel like I’m kind of like the kid coming in in a way.”
Despite that, Talbert feels her time at Humboldt and the competition she faced there have also prepared her for this moment.
“It [Humboldt] gave me a great opportunity,” Talbert said. “A lot of my friends who I played soccer with competitively were committing to DI schools, and then I committed to a DII school, so nobody really thought that it would be great competition, but the fact that we are in one of the tougher DII leagues for soccer definitely helped my career a lot.”
“There’s an expectation,” Levoy said. “That’s what a lot of people look at: ‘did you play for a top 25 program?’ I think it’s cool she can go in and say, ‘look, you don’t have to play at the biggest school.’”
For Talbert, she believes the opportunity ahead sets her up for success later.
“I had an offer from a team in Portugal that I turned down to come to this try-out because I thought this would be a better opportunity for me to continue playing in the NWSL or other opportunities to come in the future,” Talbert said. “My main end goal if I can is to possibly play for the Sacramento NWSL team whenever that happens, which I heard might happen in 2022.”
Whatever happens, Levoy believes Talbert is set to succeed.
“Honestly, she’s so deserving and she’s a great athlete,” Levoy said. “Everything is falling into place for her.”