Favorite athlete: Leo Messi
Favorite team: FC Barcelona
Favorite memory competing in sports: Making varsity as a freshman.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I went to a soccer tournament and forgot my soccer bag with my equipment.
Music on mobile device: All types except country
Future plans: Play soccer in college and study to become a physical therapist
Words to live by: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” –Wayne Gretzky
One goal before turning 30: Travel through Europe
One thing people don’t know about me: I had open heart surgery when I was two years old.
Just keep trying.
It's a simple phrase, but to Cara McCausland, it means everything. The Souderton senior is a lethal goal scorer and one of the top forwards in the entire Suburban One League. She's clutch too, with a pair of game-winning overtime goals already this season.
To McCausland, everything she's achieved, what she's overcome and all that she will go on to do is because she just kept trying.
"It pushes me through every game," McCausland said. "The drive makes me want to play better. When I'm playing better, you're winning games and that just helps the whole team."
Chris Felber, Souderton's head coach, has known McCausland since she was 10 years old and coached the forward at Towamencin Soccer Club before he took over the Indians in 2014. He knew right away that McCausland had all the tools to be as good a player as she wanted to be.
Felber also knew early on that he wouldn't have any trouble trying to motivate McCausland to realize her talent.
"Determination is definitely the word I would use for her," Felber said. "She's very committed, she's very determined. She knows what she wants and she works hard for it."
In soccer terms, McCausland is pretty much the textbook definition of a center forward. She's not the fastest player on Souderton's roster, but she's a born scorer and she has the vision and footwork to make passes to those speedsters flanking her.
When she's on the field, Souderton is a dangerous offensive team. Tori Dowd and Allie Trick are perfect players to flank McCausland, while the Indians midfielders like Taylor Moritz and Bre Direnzi can combine with the forward up top.
"In the time I've known her, she's the type of girl that when you talk about different parts of the team or other positions or different tactics, she's always listening, always taking it in and always learning from it,” Felber said.
As to where that drive comes from, McCausland said she's always had it but thinks she probably inherited it from her parents and older siblings. Parents Sean and Donna and her older sister Kaitlyn and brother Connor are all “drive people,” McCausland said, and while they didn't play soccer, it still rubbed off on Cara.
"I just think I was born with it," she said. "Throughout my whole life, I've always been driven, I've always wanted to go the extra mile and put in the extra work because the benefits just happen when you do that. I enjoy pursuing things, I like being driven and chasing after goals."
McCausland isn't just a target, she makes things happen when she has the ball. The free-flowing nature of soccer and the creativity it urges out of those playing it were the things McCausland first fell in love with when she began playing the game in third grade.
Felber knew McCausland would thrive on the high school level, but he also felt the physicality of the high school game would be the biggest hurdle for her to overcome.
"The summer before my freshman year, I really tried to put in the work to get faster, more physical and that's what took off and made me a better player, all the hard work I put in," McCausland said.
Playing against seniors as a freshman was a challenge, but McCausland drove her way through it and soon enough, the goals came. She scored in her very first game, which she still calls her favorite game, after passing the ball out to the wing, cutting into the box and receiving a pass back that she put away.
Three years later, an almost identical play on a combination with fellow senior Tori Dowd would net McCausland an overtime game-winner against North Penn.
She doesn't often have bad games, but in the moments where she isn't seeing success on the field, she always goes back to a simple phrase.
"I always tell myself to keep trying because eventually it'll work," McCausland said. "Even if I have a couple shots that don't go in, it's not the worst thing. As long as I get that one that goes in, it makes everything worth it."
McCausland had a solid freshman year and while Souderton didn't make the postseason, it took big steps toward being a competitive program again with Felber at the helm and a lot of talent in the lower classes. She continued to work over the summer while playing with her FC Bucks ECNL club team and kept getting better.
Her club roster included CB South senior Aleksa Peev, Lansdale Catholic senior Kate Henesey and CR North senior Mia Scalamandre, along with a handful of other local players, creating a strong training environment. All the work paid off in a breakout sophomore season that saw McCausland score double-digit goals with double-digit assists as the Indians returned to districts.
"We knew from my freshman year that the program was going to turn around and that was all from Chris (Felber)," McCausland said. "He saw this vision for all of us that we were going to turn the program around and that's what we've done."
McCaulsand's junior season began with high expectations until just four games in, it came to a crashing halt. The forward tore an ACL, sidelining her for the rest of the season and leaving a void at the top of the attacking six.
The injury ended up costing McCausland 10 months of recovery and rehab, but she continued to be a constant presence for Souderton. Her teammates voted her a team captain, which Felber said summed up everything that needed to be said about her commitment after being hurt.
"I knew it wasn't going to help me being upset about tearing my ACL, so I wanted to be a leader," McCausland said. "I wanted to be there for anyone who was confused or not sure what to do in their position and use my knowledge to help them play."
Tearing an ACL is a serious injury, and it affects every athlete recovering from it in a different way. For McCausland, it was all about letting her drive and determination triumph over any fears or doubts.
"There wasn't any doubt in my mind I would be back, which is kind of funny, but I knew I work hard and I just didn't know when it would be or how quick it would be," McCausland said. "So, no, I would say I never had a doubt."
Felber likewise knew there was no reason to expect anything less than a full recovery.
"It's who she is," the Indians’ coach said. "She's just a very determined girl and there was no doubt in my mind she was going to come back just as strong. She just had such enthusiasm every day to make sure she would be back."
A fighter since she was born, McCausland underwent open heart surgery when she was two years old to correct a congenital heart defect after it was discovered that her heart wasn't pumping blood to her lower extremities. In medical terms, the surgeon had to correct a coarctation of McCausland's aorta and her deformed bicuspid valve.
"The doctors originally thought I wouldn't be able to play competitive sports when I grew up," she said.
McCausland has been proving that prognosis wrong but does make annual visits to the cardiologist to make sure everything is in order.
"My lungs tend to not hold as much oxygen, but I don't let it stop me," she said. "Every cardiologist I see is surprised with how well my heart works and how much I can do despite my heart not working normally like everyone else's.
"I have full clearance to play sports, but I am fully aware that by playing sports, I will likely need surgery when I'm older to correct the deformities."
Ironically, getting hurt showed McCausland what she wanted to do when her playing days were over.
"My rehab from my ACL tear is what made me decide I really wanted to pursue physical therapy," she said. "The physical therapists I had really pushed me and helped get me back to playing soccer and that's what I want to do. I want to help people get back to playing the sports that they love or even daily activities. I just want to help people as much as possible."
McCausland is planning to play in college and has narrowed her options down to a final three of Quinnipiac, Towson and Arcadia. She focused her options to schools with well-regarded physical therapy programs and her choice will have a lot to do with where she best sees herself fitting in with the soccer team.
Felber anticipated that McCausland would end up playing in college due to the combination of her ability and determination. She was never content to just sit on her skills and always tried to find ways to improve or keep working at an area where she wasn't as strong.
"She deserves what she's getting," Felber said. "She's someone who hasn't just wanted it but worked really hard for it for a long time. As long as I've known her, she's always worked really hard for all of it."
With the Indians, McCausland became a therapist of a different kind. Admittedly quiet in a group setting, the forward would take players aside during games and talk to them about what she saw and what they were seeing on the field.
Whenever Felber or one of his assistants saw it, they let McCausland go because they knew whatever she was telling her teammates was only meant to prop them up and help them find success on the field.
"I've always been comfortable doing it that way," said McCausland, who takes that willingness to help others off the pitch.
The Souderton senior is involved with the Teen Talk Line where she speaks with teenagers who have personal problems and need a listening ear. She also is an assistant coach for Souderton's intramural U-13 soccer team.
A member of the National Honor Society, McCausland, who boasts a 4.2 GPA, is enrolled in honors classes as well as several AP classes. She in involved in Student Council and the school's Interact Club, which works with the Souderton Rotary to help run community events.
McCausland's drive got her back on the field in time for preseason, but she was determined to do one more thing to prove she was truly back.
She wanted to score a goal as soon as possible. Scoring is her favorite thing to do on the field, although the forward admits she probably passes up too many chances to do so, but scoring would mean that all the work she put in paid off.
"I wouldn't say there was any hesitation, but there was a lot of determination," Felber said. "I could tell she had a real desire to go get a goal and feel good about herself again. When you've been out and you come back and score, it kind of takes all that pressure away and you could tell she just wanted that so badly."
The Indians have set a high bar for themselves this year. They want a top eight district spot and the first round bye that comes with it, and they want to advance past their first game for the first time as a group.
Most of the seniors have been four-year varsity players and McCausland said they love playing together and called it a "happy and energetic group." Felber makes it fun to come to practice every day, and while McCausland said it's a pretty goofy bunch and they spend a lot of time laughing, they also know when to get serious.
In four short years, they've turned Souderton into a top team in the area and it's an accomplishment McCausland and her classmates take a lot of pride in.
"We always want to leave our shirts in a better place," McCausland said. "That's our motto this season, so we always want to keep working hard and make the program proud."
Souderton opened its season against CB South, a stout defensive side that challenges most teams to even get a clean shot off. McCausland knew getting a goal would be a tough task, but she was determined to start her senior year off the right way.
McCausland didn't score one goal in the game.
Instead, she scored two, including the game-winner in double-overtime to hand the Indians a 4-3 victory.
"It was amazing," McCausland said. "I don't think I've ever smiled so wide. It was just so relieving. It was a tough game and it was just so rewarding for me."
"It's not come easy," Felber said. "She put the time and effort in and she truly deserves any credit she ever gets."