Littlefield enjoying senior season with Hornets
Baldwin graduate has battled through many injuries, concussions
It was a goal that Skylar Littlefield is not likely to forget.
Just 15 minutes into Sacramento State’s match against the University of Oregon on Feb. 19, the Baldwin High School graduate timed her run and leap perfectly off a corner kick and headed home the fifth goal of her career.
“It felt great, I had a dream that I scored in that game and, you know what? I’m not as fit as I could be right now, but I went out there and I tried to give everything I had,” Littlefield said via phone last week. “Having my teammates out there with me, I mean we wanted to win that game really bad.
“My teammate, she gave me the perfect ball and I knew I had to get some body part on it. When it went in I was just so happy to celebrate with my teammates.”
The Hornets (1-0-2) tied that match 1-1 and the goal helped Littlefield earn player of the week honors in the Big Sky Conference. It was the first goal since 2018 for Littlefield, a senior midfielder who has battled injuries her entire career for the Hornets.
“I’m actually having a lot of fun,” Littlefield said. “I think that coming to Sac I’ve had, I would say, good experiences and not-so-good experiences. And by that, I’ve had a lot of personal things that I’ve had to overcome, I think the girls on the team definitely make it worth being here.”
Recovery from knee surgery for a torn lateral meniscus as a senior at Baldwin lingered into her freshman season in Sacramento, but she played in 20 matches, starting six, and finished with a goal and an assist in that first season.
“My injuries weren’t so bad that (freshman) year, but as the years went on I got more and more concussions, pretty bad ones where I would come off of the field, like, slurring my words and the affects afterwards would affect me going to class and I wasn’t able to concentrate, I was tired all the time,” she said.
At the end of her sophomore year — when she started 15 of the 18 matches she played, and scored three goals — she had ankle surgery after a spate of ankle sprains. The surgery came during the spring of 2019.
Mobility in her left ankle is still limited.
“That surgery took like seven months to recover from, but I actually had other complications with it — I got a third-degree burn on my ankle on the stitches because of the friction from the soft cast that I was in,” Littlefield said. “And it reopened, so I had a little bit of setback. I’m doing better now, it’s alright. I’m still with my trainers going through rehab and trying to get it back to the way it used to be.
“I don’t think that it ever will be, but I’m pushing through for my last season.”
She was limited to 228 minutes on the field, playing in nine matches and starting one, as a junior.
A talk with a sports psychologist — “Just to talk things through, to get my mind right,” she said — helped Littlefield make it back strong for her senior season.
“I’m still here and I hope this season goes a lot better and hopefully in our favor,” Littlefield said.
Littlefield’s final season is down to eight Big Sky matches, beginning March 19 at Eastern Washington, and the Big Sky tournament April 15-17. A title in the tournament would send the Hornets to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.
Head coach Randy Dedini knows much of his team’s success this season can be helped by a healthy Littlefield.
“Sky’s one of the most athletic players that we have,” Dedini said. “Her ceiling athletically is as high if not higher than anybody on the team. I mean, she’s a phenomenal athlete.
“Really throughout her four years here she has dealt with very different injuries and concussions and things that have kind of held her back statistically. When you look at the stats over the years they don’t always match what she actually brings when she’s healthy on the field.”
Dedini points to the latest goal as what Littlefield means to the Hornets’ attack.
“It was a great goal,” he said. “Technically perfect run, perfect elevation in the air. She got a really solid head on it and just stuck it in the back of the net. … We know that when we have her on the field, at any moment, she could break out with a play that could change a game for us.”
Littlefield is currently coming back from the “fourth diagnosed” concussion that she has had in college.
“A couple weeks ago me and my teammate went into a tackle really hard and we smacked heads,” she said. “I ended up cutting my lip open really deep and that’s really all I was worried about. I didn’t really think about me hitting my head, but I think it was lingering and the night before the Oregon game I had class and I gave a speech. The speech is pretty foggy, I don’t really remember what I said exactly.”
There was no stopping her from playing in the Oregon match.
“I went into the Oregon game really just wanting to play, so I waited (to tell the coaches),” Littlefield said. “I know it wasn’t probably the smartest decision, but I really wanted to play. … I think I didn’t even realize the severity of it, so I just thought ‘maybe I just have a headache.’
“I’m heading a lot of balls during that game and after the game I felt sick and nauseous. I threw up actually. I told my trainer the next day we had practice, ‘I do not feel good.’ They did the concussion test on me and I do have one.”
The communications major is set to finish her degree in May. She listed dental hygienist, tattoo artist or beauty school for hair as post-graduate options.
She is feeling better and hopes to finish her career strong. While there is the option to return for another season due to COVID-19, that is not likely to happen for Littlefield.
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, I’ve had many conversations with my parents and the coaches,” Littlefield said. “I think I’m ready to move on. I think I want to start my life and use what I know now to move forward.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.