As Duke Athletics wraps up yet another successful calendar year, we wanted to look back at interviews with inductees of the Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2016—Individuals who not only contributed to the university’s achievements, but laid the foundation for those to follow.
Today’s feature highlights our conversation with women's soccer star Kelly Walbert Cagle.
For you, this is sort of an extra special moment I would think because you are the first one to represent Duke women’s soccer in the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame. Have you thought about that? And if you have, what does that mean to you?
I think it’s probably the most important piece to this puzzle quite frankly. Because I think it opens the door for so many unbelievably talented people to get in. I’m old, so they had to put me in first, and it’s about time, and I think we’re at that moment where the program has been good enough for so long. You’ve got national team players from several different countries; they’re knocking on the door nationally from a national championship standpoint, so it really makes sense. For me, the most important part of this weekend is that everybody knows how I think this is a ‘we’ moment, not just a ‘me’ moment. ‘We’ meaning all of the players in my era, really created the foundation, who came here when it really wasn’t cool to come to Duke in its fifth year. To set that foundation all the way to the current players who are making a great runs for national championships. I just think it is a ‘we moment and I am super proud to be the front person, but it’s not me, it’s kind of where the program is today.
You mentioned some foundational moments and players and when it wasn’t cool and trying stake claim and a reputation for women’s soccer. One of the biggest moments had to be beating North Carolina. What do you remember about that moment?
Well the elusive National Championship that we didn’t get my freshman year, and they handed us a pretty significant loss in that game, and our junior year we beat them and we beat them for the first time they lost at home, so they had never lost in their whole lives at home and we beat ‘em. It was such a big deal the Duke students started hearing about it, and the stands started to grow and grow as people started getting wind of us leading in that game, and so that was sort of our National championship, because back then even more so than now because there is more parity, the bar was set by Carolina and really Carolina alone, almost obnoxiously so. And so being able to make amends to how they treated us in the national final my freshman year, get the opportunity on our home soil was probably our best victory, our best moment as program, and really fun handing them their first ever loss, I have no problem with that.
You mentioned you know national team players, and competing for national championships this program is arguably having its best run maybe since you and your teammates, so how much do you follow it and what do you think of 2011 until now with the two national championship appearances and what they’re getting done?
We follow it all the time, and I actually feel like I can follow it more honestly now. When I was coaching at Virginia Tech for eight years we were in the conference and so I followed it because I was in it, and of course always had a lover for this place, but as a coach and as a hyper-competitive human being when I was at Virginia Tech I bled maroon and orange. So I just told my husband the other day it feels really good to be back on campus not having an affiliation to anywhere else than here. So I am 100% supportive, following them, I truly believe it is going to get done, and the best thing about it is Robbie [Church] allowed me to address the team and really get to know them yesterday which has been the highlight for me. But the best thing about it is, culture is big thing for them, and I think that’s a word people throw around too flippantly, they’re really working on what I deem to be the most important things and that is each other and serving one another and really making sure the team comes first, and I think with that in mind I think they even have a better shot .Being on the other side as a coach you can’t win without that. So that focus and their talent, I’ve got no doubt that it could happen any moment, and just knocking on that door all the time they’re going to be more experienced and kinda just like this is where we should be. I’m really proud of the program where it’s been and really proud of the foundation we laid, but it’s all about them and what they’re doing now.