Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Former Mustang powers IMG Academy

  • By
  • | 4:00 a.m. June 13, 2012
Lakewood Ranch High graduate Nikki Kerrigan spent the past year playing for IMG Academy's U19 girls team
Lakewood Ranch High graduate Nikki Kerrigan spent the past year playing for IMG Academy's U19 girls team
  • East County
  • Sports
  • Share

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Twelve months ago, Nikki Kerrigan didn’t know where to turn.

The Lakewood Ranch High graduate’s soccer career was slowly beginning to unravel; and at that point, Kerrigan didn’t know what the future held.

After her former FC Sarasota coach quit midway through the season, Kerrigan found herself without a coach and on a team that was falling apart.

At that point, the forward began searching for a new place to call home — all the while wondering if the door was closing on her soccer career.

But it didn’t take long for Kerrigan to find the answer she had been looking for in the form of IMG Academy.

After some careful thought and consideration, Kerrigan decided to tryout for IMG Academy’s U19 girls team.

“I needed a place to go and IMG found me,” Kerrigan said. “I was reluctant, at first, but it was the best decision I could’ve made for my soccer career. God has a plan for me. I never would’ve seen myself at IMG.”

Kerrigan spent the past year training five days a week at IMG Academy while helping lead her team to a runner-up finish in the Florida Youth Soccer Association State Cup.

As a result of her hard work and dedication, Kerrigan was named the Offensive Player of the Year for the girls teams of IMG Academy, which includes the U16, U17 and U19 teams.

“I was surprised because there are so many great athletes on all three teams,” Kerrigan said. “I had the opportunity to play with kids from all over the world. We had a girl from Africa, a couple of girls from Mexico and a girl from Brazil. It’s a really cool experience.

“It was an incredible opportunity,” Kerrigan said. “The facility and club are like no other. They really take care of their athletes, and I think that’s what sets them apart. You feel like you’re on a professional team, and that’s what makes it so amazing.”

Kerrigan began playing soccer when she was 5 years old after watching her older sister, Kaitlyn, play soccer.

“She played in a rec league, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Kerrigan said.

Kerrigan grew up playing recreational and club soccer in Indiana, where she suffered her first setback after not making her first club team.

“It was devastating,” Kerrigan said. “After that I got a call from a lady who was putting another team together with all of the other players, and that’s when I knew it was meant to be.”

Kerrigan moved to Florida in sixth grade and joined the Braden River Soccer Club shortly thereafter. But Kerrigan’s soccer career was put on hold two years later when she tore her MCL, partially tore her ACL and broke two bones in her leg.

She spent the next nine months recovering in preparation for her first season with Lakewood. Kerrigan played alongside her sister on the Lady Mustangs varsity soccer team for which she was named Freshman of the Year.

Kerrigan, who left the BRSC to play for FC Sarasota, spent the next two years training with her club’s boys team during which time she suffered her second major injury — a meniscus injury.

“After my injuries, I started to believe I was never going to play college soccer,” Kerrigan said. “So much was going wrong, but it all came together in the end.”

Kerrigan eventually was able to push past the mental block that formed as a result of her injury and focus on her lifelong goal — playing collegiate soccer.

“It was like a new beginning, a fresh start,” Kerrigan said. “It’s all in your head. You have to get over it in your head because, if you don’t, then you’re not going to return the same way.”

Kerrigan will resume her soccer career this fall at Missouri State University.

“I wanted to go to a bigger school and between the soccer program, the coaches and the players — it just felt right,” said Kerrigan, who plans to study pre-medicine. “It’s kind of like a reward. I’ve worked so hard for so many years, and playing Division I ball is the reward.”

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].


Related Articles

  • August 10, 2011
BRSC kicks off new academy