Other than a few of the early years at Jacksonville State, I have had outstanding goalkeepers. Even when I played, I was lucky to play with national level goalkeepers and All-Americans. In 1989, my college team finished the season with 3 goals against. We gave up only 3 goals in 20 games. It is still a NCAA record. I don't think it's #1, but it is one of the best season goals against average in the history of NCAA women's soccer.
Sari is an excellent goalkeeper. She has had a great start to her career - 2008 All-Freshman Team and Tournament MVP. 2009 First Team All-Conference, Belmont Female Athlete of the Year. 2010 Pre-Season All-Conference pick. She has been ranked nationally in save percentage, goals against average, and shutout percentage. Sari is probably the biggest reason for our 2008 tournament championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament. It was truly a team effort, but the goalkeeper often gets the credit (and the blame).
We have another great goalkeeper on our team - Nicole Berner, a freshman from New Jersey. Nicole came in ready to challenge for playing time. During the pre-season, Nicole out-performed Sari, and she has started all 5 of our games.
I am not writing this to give a public comparison of the two goalkeepers or to promote one goalkeeper over the other. I am writing this to talk about how one young adult has dealt with a situation that was probably very difficult and how this has defined her character.
Sari could have responded very poorly when she lost her starting position. She could have felt entitled to her position. She could have pointed the finger at others. She could have blamed me or Kyle or Andy. She could have blamed Nicole. She could have given up.
I do remember a training session while we were in Alabama where Sari looked like she was giving up. Then, she made that decision to compete for her position. I think she had to hold herself accountable to be able to make that commitment to herself and to her team. Since the Samford game, Sari has not taken one play off in training or in games. She is getting her timing back and her confidence back, and Sari's new work ethic is going to make her even better than she was before.
I am proud of Sari and the way she has handled this. I hope her peers and teammates will learn from her example. I know they have noticed. What a tribute to the value of collegiate sports. This is not the last time that Sari will be knocked down and challenged in her life. She has shown at a pretty young age that she can pick herself up, wipe herself off, and put herself back out there.
Not all student-athletes have the same reaction or attitude as Sari. A few years ago, I had a player quit the team when she lost her starting position. She told me that she was a junior and she shouldn't have to continue to prove herself.
I am glad Sari didn't respond that way, and I am grateful for Nicole's talent, preparation, and contribution to our team. Is it possible that we not only have the best goalkeeper in the conference but we have the 2 best goalkeepers in the conference?