A goalie’s perspective

Photo by John Kean

Lady Miner goalkeepers, from left: Madison Gibler, Kaitlyn Deister and Carrie Levy. Photo by John Kean

Although it isn’t a glamorous position, the goalkeeper often determines a soccer game’s outcome. And these fearless goalies withstand not only physical duress, but mental pressure as well.

Missouri S&T’s women’s soccer program has a trio of bold leaders in Madison Gibler, a senior in civil engineering from Kansas City, Mo.; Kaitlyn Deister, a junior in ceramic engineering from Wildwood, Mo.; and Carrie Levy, a junior in engineering management from Columbia, Mo. All three have held the position since they first played the sport.

Levy says a goalie’s aggressiveness is a defining characteristic. “You have to be way more aggressive as a goalkeeper,” she says. “If you’re timid at all then you will get eaten up. That’s one of the things I like about playing this position.”

“It helps that all three of us are a little crazy,” Gibler adds.

The goalkeeper’s unique perspective of the game gives her a chance to demonstrate her leadership. If the opposing team is on the counterattack, it’s the goalie’s job to help her defenders find unmarked players. Goalies also direct where defenders need to be on free kicks in their defensive third of the field. There must be trust and communication between the goalkeeper and her defenders.

“We try to be their eyes,” says Gibler. “They’re the ones running up and down the field while we’ve got everything in front of us. It’s our job to help them find those players so they don’t have to expend excess energy looking around. That’s part of building that trust, so they know we’ll get the balls — they don’t have to.”

Deister says defenders must know she is back there. “If there isn’t trust between a keeper and her back line, that’s when miscommunication happens and goals get scored,” she says. “I’m always talking with them, telling them to get back and who to mark, and also encouraging them to keep working and moving so we can get some offense going.”

The physical and mental challenges of the position vary from moment to moment. A goalkeeper may spend a majority of the game without being tested at all, then suddenly be called upon to make the big save. In other games, goalies are continuously tested and rise to the occasion each time, but a moment’s loss of focus can cost the game.

That’s why Levy says being a goalkeeper is probably the most mentally demanding position on the field. Unlike field players who may have chances to rebound in a game, a goalie may have to wait until the next game.

“We may only get one shot,” says Levy. “Whether it’s a tough play or a breakaway, if we can’t stop it or get the defenders back to break it up, that becomes our play and that’s the only thing we’ll remember.”

“You can stand back there all game and then there’s that shot at the end of the game that you have to save,” Deister adds. “If you don’t, you’ll feel bad about it, but you’ve got to keep going.”

Gibler says it helps to talk over plays with each other to see what they could have done differently.

“We get feedback from each other, which may be the only feedback we get other than going through it in our heads,” she says.

It also helps that their coach, Joe McCauley, played the position in college.

“He understands the pressure of the position,” Deister says. “He’s not as hard on us as because he knows the goalkeeper has to have the confidence to make the big save. He tries to keep us in a good position so we can go out and perform.”

Story by Luke Rinne

Read more about Miner athletics.