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The search for a new goalkeeper

By Zach Cihlar and Sarah Jousset

Section: Sports

November 3, 2017

The Brandeis women’s soccer team has gone through five goalkeepers this season. The Judges had gone 10-2-2 in their season, until losing their original two keepers to injury. In the last four games, the Judges have earned a 1-2-1 record on the backs of three new recruits for the position.

From the first game of the season, the women’s soccer team faced a bit of adversity in their last line of defense. Starting goalkeeper Victoria Richardson ’20 incurred an injury playing against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Friday, Sept. 1, resulting in a move to put Sierra Dana ’20 into the goal for the rest of the game, and presumably for most of the season.

Dana thrived in the goalkeeper position, earning a University Athletic Association (UAA) Defensive Player of the Week distinction, and helping the team achieve a 10-1-2 record during her tenure in goal. However, Dana remained the only healthy goalkeeper on the team’s roster, without a backup plan in case the worst happened.

The Athletic Trainers in Gosman cleared Richardson to play in the beginning of October. However, she then tore her ACL in practice-play, forcing her to take the bench for the rest of the season.

In an away game at Emory University, the Judges defense took a blow when Dana broke her finger looking for a breakaway save against the strong UAA opponents. The injury required surgery on her hand which effectively took her out of play for the rest of the season. Just after the start of the second half against Emory, Dana was taken off the field and replaced with an emergency goalkeeper-fille, Minjee Lee ’19, who normally plays in the forward position. Lacking a goalkeeper, the Judges dropped the pivotal UAA match-up 0-3, and consequently the Judges slipped in UAA standings.

Once the team returned to Brandeis, the goalkeeper coach John Conlon held open tryouts to look for individuals that could give the team the best chance to win games. “The team was not involved in the initial decision,” Dana said about the open tryouts, but the team has “made sure to provide a welcoming environment to help our keepers feel confident and comfortable stepping up in big games for us as our season is winding down.” Conlon identified three individuals, all of whom have been practicing with the team since, guided by the direction and skill of the goalkeeper coach, as well as Richardson and Dana.

The open tryouts resulted in three new recruits, two former women’s varsity basketball players and the goalkeeper for the Women’s Brandeis Football Club (WBFC).

The first to try their hand at the goalkeeper position was Maura Koehler ’19 in the Oct. 18 4-1 win against Westfield State. The field manager for the club soccer team contacted Koehler, after the assistant coach for the varsity team (Mary Shimko) had contacted the field manager looking for interested parties.

Koehler said she had been training as a goalkeeper for several years. “I always love to get more playing time and practices in and this seemed like a great way to do that, as well as help out my classmates.”

Koehler adds, “I would love to be able to do my part to help the team win against NYU on Saturday.”

Brandeis also added two former basketball players to their roster, Gemma Curnin ’19, who quit varsity basketball after one year, and graduate student Frankie Pinto, who played basketball for the entirety of her undergraduate career.

Curnin heard about the tryout from a current player on the women’s soccer team who encouraged her to join the team as a goalkeeper. Curnin was the second of the new goalkeepers to try her luck, playing in the Oct. 22 game against Elms, which resulted in a 2-2 tie.

As for Pinto, a current graduate student at Brandeis, she recalls visiting old basketball coaches from her undergraduate days, when she was told about the open tryouts.

“I was actually at Gosman saying hi to some of my old basketball coaches and I ended up seeing Mary, the assistant soccer coach. She was telling me about the team’s search for a goalie, and I told her that I used to play soccer,” said Pinto, who was not a goalie in high school, but a forward.

“One of the basketball coaches kind of jokingly suggested I try out since I have another year of eligibility left, which I didn’t know.” Pinto said she was very open to the idea, and confirmed her eligibility under NCAA rules with Lynne Dempsey, the Director of Athletics.

Dempsey confirmed to The Brandeis Hoot that student athletes have 10 consecutive semesters to compete at the varsity level, eight semesters of eligibility in one sport. These eight semesters may be spread out over the five years, or the ninth and 10th semesters can be used to participate in a different varsity sport, as long as the student-athlete is enrolled in a full-time academic program of study at the university for which they are playing.

As for Pinto’s performance, she has logged the most hours out of the three newly recruited goalkeepers. Pinto split time with Curnin in her first game for the soccer team against Elms, playing 45 minutes of the double overtime game. Pinto’s performance earned her a spot as front runner, playing in goal for the Judges this past weekend against UAA conference teams Washington University at St. Louis on Friday and the University of Chicago on Sunday. Both games resulted in a loss for the Judges, but Pinto earned six and four saves in goal, respectively.

Pinto also commented on what she brings from her previous experience as a varsity athlete, “In terms of basketball, I think that one thing I’ve carried over into soccer…is my competitiveness. Even though I’m new to being a goalkeeper and am still learning…my willingness to compete has really helped me settle into the position,” she said. “It’s a learning process, but I’m having a lot of fun along the way and am glad that I can help out.”

Pinto also noted the satisfaction of participating on a team again, “I really miss having that sense of camaraderie and working towards achieving something that’s bigger than yourself. I’m lucky that I get to experience it one more time!”

After speaking with The Hoot, both Pinto and Koehler mentioned that the women’s soccer team had embraced them as new teammates. Koehler noted, “I really like how welcoming everyone on the team and the coaches have been to Frankie, Gemma and I. Everyone on the team is really supportive of each other so that’s always a great environment to be in.”

Women’s soccer Head Coach Denise Dallamora declined to comment on the Judges’ current situation.

Dana further noted, “The keepers that have taken the time to help us out have stepped up in big ways the past few games. They have done everything we have asked of them, and helped give us opportunities to stay in games with incredibly tough competition. It’s incredibly unfortunate that we have been put in this position, but the keepers that we have now are making the situation a bit easier to deal with, and have developed remarkably well in the limited time we have had to train them up.”

The Brandeis women’s soccer team will finish their regular season this Saturday at home in another UAA conference matchup against New York University at 2:30 p.m. on Gordon Field. The Judges have missed automatic qualification for the playoffs, which would be secured by winning the UAA conference, but still may have a shot at an NCAA wildcard berth this year. The wildcard berths are decided upon by a NCAA selection committee after the end of the regular season.

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