Attending the University of Georgia and playing sports have long been a family affair for Caroline Chipman.
Her father, Billy Chipman, graduated from Georgia in 1989, making her a born and bred Bulldog. The father and daughter pair followed a similar path to Georgia — Billy Chipman chased his dream of playing on the baseball diamond or football field, and Chipman had dreams of collegiate soccer.
Neither went through a traditional recruiting process, and both were left with only one option to play sports at Georgia. The choices Billy Chipman and his daughter made are where their paths differ.
“I should have walked on, and I didn’t do it,” Billy Chipman said. “I regret it to this day.”
Chipman chose the alternate route, and it has paid off. She started in 15 of 18 games her freshman year and every game through her sophomore and junior campaigns. She has totaled 1,070 minutes of play this season, helping Georgia earn a 7-6-2 record through 15 games.
“Every day, she’s going to use her gift of athleticism,” Georgia head coach Billy Lesesne said. “She just competes at such a high level.”
Going into her senior year of high school, Chipman said she didn’t plan to play soccer at the collegiate level, but her mindset shifted as she reached the end of her final season with her club team, the Concorde Fire.
“I was like ‘Wow, I can’t give this up. I really want to play,’” Chipman said.
An Atlanta native, Chipman attended Marist High School, the same school her father went to, but it was during a club match that she realized she couldn’t have college without soccer. She recalled the exact game that made her change her mind. Concorde was playing Tophat Soccer Club, their rival team.
“They’d always beaten us,” Chipman said. “They were like the best of the best in Georgia and in the U.S., too.”
Chipman said she had the best game of her life that day and recalled having both an assist and a goal. She said Concorde won 2-0, and it was the first time her team had defeated Tophat.
“After the game I was so happy,” Chipman said. “I was just thinking to myself … ‘I’m going to miss it so much.’”
Billy Chipman didn’t want his daughter to “sell herself short” or live with the regret that he did for not playing a collegiate sport, so when her opportunity came, he encouraged her.
“I just said, ‘Do you want to keep playing? Because I know you can play,’” Billy Chipman said. “‘If you want it, go for it.’”
She contacted the Georgia soccer team, and coaches came to watch her play before she attended an ID camp, an open camp where players get exposure to collegiate coaches. She said she was “essentially” offered a spot as a walk-on at a Georgia ID camp.
Chipman’s relationship with soccer was often back and forth. She grew up with dreams of putting on a collegiate uniform, but those dreams were strained at times.
Her collegiate aspirations were first diminished in eighth grade, when she was cut from her club team. Billy Chipman said his daughter was a “late bloomer,” and the way she recalls her early high school years of soccer align with that label perfectly.
“I stuck with it and I started getting better,” Chipman said. “I grew like eight inches.”
Chipman later made it back to the team she had gotten cut from. It was a wake up call for Chipman to be cut from her team, and without it, she said, she wouldn’t be at Georgia now.
Chipman knew that coming to college as a walk-on would feel a lot like earning a starting spot on her club team. Chipman was approached about playing defense since it was one of the team’s weaknesses.
Despite having played center-mid all her life, Chipman made the switch to being an outside back.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll play wherever you will put me on the field,” Chipman said. “So I basically started playing defense for the first time ever freshman year.”
Chipman’s coach at Concorde, Sue Patberg, said that the transition from midfielder to defender was natural for Chipman because of her technical style of play.
There are qualities of midfielders that make for effective defenders, including having “really good feet” and being able to “play possession out of the back.”
“For Caroline, that was already part of her game,” Patberg said. “She’s really comfortable on the ball, very comfortable making runs forward … [and] comfortable taking players on one vs. one.”
Chipman earned a spot on the team after taking a chance, making her father proud. As the last line of defense before the goalkeeper, Chipman knows she can’t mess up her opportunity.
“That was kind of a hard transition for me, pressure-wise, and sometimes it got the best of me,” Chipman said. “But I’ve gotten really accustomed to it now.”