In redshirt senior Tabitha Padgett, Clemson women’s soccer coach Eddie Radwanski has a player who’s truly a known quantity.
That’s because Padgett played for two successful seasons under Radwanski at UNC Greensboro before following her coach to Clemson in 2011, and bringing along her work-ethic and experience, as well as her competitive tenacity.
“I’ve known Tabitha for so long, and we have a very good relationship,” said Radwanski. “We’ve had a lot of success together, and I’m glad that she’s here. She brings a lot of leadership and experience, and she’s very committed and is one of the hardest working kids you’ll ever see. She’ll leave everything on the field, and there’s never a question about that.”
At Greensboro, a standout performance as a freshman forward in 2009 earned Padgett recognition as both the Southern Conference Co-Player of theYear, and Freshman of the Year; and the distinction was rendered even more impressive by the fact that only one other player in the league’s history had received both honors in the same season.
In 2010 she helped Radwanski lead UNC Greensboro to a top-ten finish nationally, and the year after that an injury forced her to sit-out what would have been her first season at Clemson.
Though a proven goal-scorer (as a freshman she led UNCG with 8, including 5 game-winners, then led the team again as a sophomore with 10), her first season as a full-time starter for the Tigers (2012) resulted in a two goals and three assists for seven points, which was tied for second in scoring on a team that was clearly in a rebuilding phase.
This season, on a team that’s deeper and more talented, she’s demonstrated her versatility by splitting time between playing as a forward and a flank-defender. Significantly, her role as an outside back calls, as well, on her attacking skills.
“She played in the back with her summer-league team, so she got some experience,” said Radwanski. “She’s probably our most competitive kid, and she’s a good athlete, and has good pace, and is left-footed. So she can slide-in back there and give us some stability in the back, and then has the ability to go forward. And I like the option of making the potential switch, and then putting her up-front.
“Tab has always given me an honest effort. That’s from day-one since I met her. I would never fault her for that. I’ve got a lot of belief, and confidence, and faith in her, and I always will. She’ll do anything for the team, and I appreciate her being flexible like that, and she gives her all. You’ve got to respect that, because to be a fifth-year senior, that’s what you want from a kid like that. It’s leadership by example.”
Padgett says that she’s not averse to playing both positions, and has typically started games in the back, before eventually moving up-front.
“I actually quite enjoy it,” said Padgett, who’s a native of Orange Park, FL. “I like a little bit of the defensive mindset, and to be able to attack. You get to read the play a little bit more in the back, and when you’re up-top you know exactly what you should be doing, and the runs you should make as a defender.
“I think that’s what Eddie wants. We want to get our outside backs in the attack, and so he likes putting me at left-back, because I do have a left and right foot, so it’s a good way to get in behind their defenders. Then, it’s good to switch it up and play me up-top, as well, because it’s something that the opponent’s not expecting.”
Despite the redshirt season, Padgett says that she hasn’t regretted her decision to transfer to Clemson.
“I wanted the chance to help Eddie build the program here,” said Padgett. “I came to college wanting Eddie to be my coach, and wanted to finish it out that way.”