Goalies singlehandedly strengthen their teams


Courtesy of Ida Centner

Sophomore JV boys soccer goalie Will Hunter prepares to clear the ball during a scrimmage against Pace Academy on Jan. 30.

Cole Parker

Goalies play a fundamental, yet challenging role on their teams, according to players and coaches.

Perhaps the most important function of a goalie is their ability to clearly see all of the action. That allows them to quickly spot potential threats and command their defenders accordingly, junior girls lacrosse goalie Sully Jones said.

“When you’re in the goal, you can see way better for your defense,” Jones said. “It’s important for you to tell your teammates where to be because when you’re defending someone, you don’t realize that someone’s going to goal or someone’s open. I can help them understand things they need to do better because it’s hard for them to see all the time when they’re in the moment.”

Goalies can stop goals from being attempted by communicating and strategically organizing their defenders, junior boys soccer goalie Chris Walker said.

“Talking really sets you apart and can really make a big difference in whether the team is able to even get an opportunity to [score],” Walker said. “If you’re able to talk and position yourself properly and your defense properly, and you don’t have to make any saves, you’re actually more important to the team than if you didn’t do any of that and just made a bunch of saves.”

Goalies can ease the pressure for their defenders by making them aware they are not the last line of defense. Sophomore JV boys soccer goalie Will Hunter said he has witnessed firsthand the trust Walker instills in his defenders.

“Christopher Walker’s a great goalie, and I’ve seen him make great saves that could have ended the game for them,” Hunter said.

Because his defenders are confident he has their backs, Walker said they can take more risks. In particular, they can practice an offsides trap in soccer called the high defensive line.

“If you’re playing higher up as a sweeper keeper, [that] allows the team to play higher and defenders to play higher up the line,” Walker said. “In soccer, there’s this rule called offsides where you can’t be past any of the defenders when the ball is played to you, otherwise it’s a turnover. And so, if the defenders can play higher up the field, there’s more room for which the other team can get called offsides and turn the ball over.”

However, because goalies have no room for error, the pressure is extreme. Even the smallest mistake can lead to a goal, which is gut-wrenching, especially in a low-scoring sport like soccer, Walker said.

“Every action you do has to be very careful because any mistake can be a goal,” Walker said. “If you make a mistake, everybody will get on you; there’s definitely a lot of pressure in being back there.”

Freshman girls soccer goalie Ellie Palaian can perform well, despite that immense pressure; she did not concede a single goal during region play. Regardless, head coach Blair Barksdale said it is important for her to tell Palaian not all goals are her fault.

“They’re always going to be hard on themselves when a goal is scored, but a lot of times, you have to remind them that it had to get through ten other people before it got to you,” Barksdale said. “So, that’s crucial in making sure they remember they’re not the only one who’s tasked with stopping goals.”

Hunter said he has a similar mentality.

“I have to handle a lot of pressure,” Hunter said. “One of the mindsets you have to have as a goalie is to know not all goals are your fault, and sometimes, it’s the defense’s fault.”

Having a strong goalie is essential if a team hopes to succeed, Walker said.

“A goalie can make all the difference,” Walker said. “You can have the best defenders and the best midfielders, but then your goalie makes mistakes, and the other team scores, and you can lose the game.”