In soccer, only one goalkeeper can play the position at a time. The four keepers on the Dalhousie University Tigers women’s soccer team roster know this well. Despite the jam-packed crease, rookie keeper Annabel Gravely is happy to be a part of it.
“We’re pushing each other, but we also work really well together. It’s really fun,” she said. “I think I’ve improved a lot through this competition.”
Fellow first-year Devon Bode, sophomore Adele Arsenault and third-year Karina Koepke round out the Tigers’ goalkeeping core. Aside from Arsenault, each is in her first year at Dalhousie; Koepke joins as a German exchange student already having completed two years of university. They agree with Gravely.
“Seeing everyone else around me improve pushes me to improve, so it goes both ways. Helping others to get better allows me to get better,” Arsenault said of the environment in the crease.
Bode expanded: “Even though we’re pushing each other, we help each other too. We give each other good competition.”
Ultimately, the final decision of who sees game action belongs to head coach Cindy Tye. Her fourth year in charge, Tye is confident in her young group of keepers and enjoys the tough choices.
“They are very hard-working and are really cohesive. They are really fun to work with. Putting them in the fire right away [as young players] to compete in the league, to get that experience, they’re going to get better every year. It’s going to be great moving forward,” said Tye.
Koepke has carried the bulk of the workload thus far in the season, playing in five of Dal’s eight games as of the time of writing, while Gravely has played in three.
So how does Tye decide?
“In the sport, goalkeepers have different strengths. [The choice] is performance-based to an extent, but it’s also a bit tactical.” Tye cited various factors that might influence her pick, like the speed, skill or size of an opponent.
The selection is important at this point in Dalhousie’s season. As of the time of writing, they boast a record of five wins, three losses (5-3-0), good for fourth place in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) league standings. On a four-game win streak that includes three shutouts, it’s a fun time to be a part of this team, especially as a keeper.
“Often as goalie, you can be the difference between winning and losing a game. You have a lot of power around how the game goes, and that’s what makes it so exciting,” said Koepke.
“It’s a big responsibility, but when you do well, it makes you feel that much better,” Gravely added. “When you can help the team do well and win, it’s a good feeling.”
With just a few games left in the regular season, the question comes down to how far this team can go in playoffs.
Arsenault said that a reasonable goal is to reach the AUS final.
“We have the skillset, and the mindset and work ethic is coming along too. But in a close league, we need to work for the results that we want, and it isn’t going to be easy,” she said.
Koepke, likewise, is confident in her team.
“We are improving every day,” she said. “Everyone is putting the work and effort in and we are really growing as a team. This too is a nice goal to work toward.”