Fate and the Saint - Tucson News Now

Fate and the Saint

Malibu, CA (KOLD) - It was fate. Had to be. The same day Wildcat goalkeeper Rachel Estopare told the Arizona coaching staff she was going to transfer, Arizona assistant coach Paul Nagy received the email. 

A prized former recruit from Scottsdale, Notre Dame named Meredith Reinhardt was backing out of her original college commitment and wanted to talk to Arizona. 

Press pause. 

Estopare had been one piece a very solid goalkeeping tandem. Playing behind starter freshman Lainey Burdett, the sophomore Estopare saw action in 11 games, finishing the season with 32 saves and a .744 average.

But Estopare saw the writing on the wall. Burdett was the clear number one. So she made up her mind and decided to blaze a trail elsewhere, eventually transferring to Houston thus breaking up one of the more dependable goalie duos in the conference.

Meredith Reinhardt had made up her mind as well. Committed to play for Sue Ryan at New York's Stony Brook University, Reinhardt decided to reopen the recruiting process after Ryan was fired following a 6-9-3 season. 

"I had to make a tough decision, if I wanted to stay or go." said Reinhardt, "When you're recruited, it's such a personal relationship you have."

About that. The Reinhardt family already had a personal relationship with the Wildcat athletic department. Reinhardt's older brother Nick is a redshirt sophomore for Rich Rodriguez and the football team, a long snapper who saw action in all 13 games last season. As Reinhardt pointed out, "I had been around the campus a lot."

Speaking of familiarity, Wildcat soccer head coach Tony Amato and his staff had their eyes on Reinhardt since her freshman year of high school.

"Her personality's awesome," said Nagy. ""She's hard working. She's super athletic so she can make some really good saves." 

In her junior year at Notre Dame, Reinhardt played a key role in beating Campo Verde to win the 2015 Division II state title. After no score through extra time, the teams were tied 2-2 through two rounds of penalty kicks. In the third round, Campo Verde's leading scorer Jacque Dompier fired a shot to the left corner. Reinhardt stopped it. Then, in the fourth round, she stopped Kathryn Fox. With Notre Dame up 3-2 in penalty kicks, teammate Taylor Culver scored the clincher. The Saints had won their first state championship since 2009. Two months later, Reinhardt verbally committed to Stony Brook. 

When Reinhardt chose the American East over the Pac-12, Arizona went about the business of moving forward. And did they ever move forward. By the time Stony Brook fired Ryan in October of 2015, Arizona was nearing the final chapter of an historic season, one that would see the team make it to the NCAA Tournament's Round of 16 and finish tied for second most wins in school history. Success arrived quicker than expected. Then winter came.

The dominoes really started to fall two and a half weeks after Arizona concluded its season when, out in New York, Stony Brook announced the hiring of new women's head soccer coach Brendan Faherty. Soon after, Meredith Reinhardt hit the send button and reacquainted herself with Nagy who had just been informed that Rachel Estopare was leaving the program. One door closes. Another opens.

On December 26th, Twitter reacted to the news. Reinhardt had changed her verbal commitment. She was going to be a Wildcat.

On February 3rd, 2016, the commitment was official.

"Arizona was the home for me," said Reinhardt. "The coaches, the atmosphere. I knew some of the girls coming into the team. It just felt like the right place."

Ten days after National Signing Day, Reinhardt, now a senior captain, helped her Saints repeat as Division II state champions. Notre Dame beat Salpointe Catholic in the title game, 1-0. With her high school career over, Reinhardt focused her attention on the next chapter. Arizona awaited.

"The team's been super welcoming," said Reinhardt. "Everything just came together."

Now, the freshman is being thrown straight into the fire. When Arizona left for Malibu, California en route to its Friday season opener at Pepperdine, it left behind goalkeeper Burdett who stayed in Tucson due to an undisclosed illness. That means, barring something unforeseen, Reinhardt will get the start against a Waves team that returns all but one of the top eleven that beat Arizona last year, 1-0. In other words, Arizona's first game of the season will be Reinhardt's Arizona debut. 

Call it fate.

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