The sophomore goalie has posted shutouts in the Owls’ first six games, including a 0-0 tie against Westtown in which she recorded 20 saves. As a freshman, she was a center back for the Owls. Her older sister Annie was an All-Main Line soccer player for Agnes Irwin, and is currently playing for Providence College.
Q: Tell us a little about the Westtown game, in which you had 20 saves. What is your most vivid memory of that contest?
A: I remember being pretty nervous before the game – they are a very good team with a lot of skilled players. It was also our first big game and we knew that it wasn’t going to be easy for us. I remember just being tired by the end of it and happy that we ended in a tie. A lot of my saves were reaction saves. A few times I had to make two quick saves in a row. The most vivid memory of that game came at the end when Sarah Oswald, who is a former club teammate of mine, got past our back line and was in. I knew that if I made the save the game would end in a tie.
Q: Is there one save that you made this season (to date) that stands out in your memory? Can you describe how the play unfolded, and your role in it?
A: One save that stands out in my memory was against Germantown Friends, our first game of the season. GFS had some soft shots on goal throughout the game, but with a minute left a player got a breakaway and I came off my line. I blocked the first shot right back at her, which allowed her to shoot another ball that I stopped with my face, which led to to third shot that I finally caught. It felt nice to get our first win of the season.
Q: As a goalie, does on-field communication with the defense play a big role in your success? Can you give us an example?
A: Definitely, communication from the back is a huge part of a team’s success. It helps keep the defense in order and it helps them see things that they may not be able to see. Communication is a big deal especially on set pieces. If the other team has a free kick, the goalie needs to make sure everybody on the other team is marked tight and that the wall is in the right spot with the right amount of people in it.
Q: What sparked your interest in the goalie position?
A: Goalie is my primary position for my club team, Lower Merion Storm. Last year Agnes Irwin had a senior playing keeper. I was on the bench for a few games when the coach decided to shake up the lineup. He put me in at center back. I must have done something right because he kept playing me in that position. It was good to see the field from a different perspective. It made me appreciate what field players go through in games and helped me when it came to communicating when I got back into the goal with my club team.
Q: What was the most important thing(s) your sister Annie taught you about soccer?
A: My sister has taught me so much about soccer. She taught me to stay positive and to focus – stay in the moment and don’t dwell on things that go wrong. But, she mainly taught me to have confidence in myself. If I was having a bad game she was always right there helping me get through it by giving me and the others around her encouragement and directions. My favorite memory was when we were playing Springside and our goalie got hurt, so I had to step in during overtime. Annie could tell I as nervous and said, “Calm down, you got this.”
Q: What do you think is the strongest aspect of your game as a goalie? What part of your game are you working on the most currently?
A: The strongest part of my game I think are breakaways. I never give a second thought about coming off my line. A part of my game I have been working on is timing on crosses and corner kicks. But, I am also small for a goalie keeper. I am only 5’7″ so high balls are always a challenge for me. So I am constantly working on my vertical jump.
Q: Who have been your biggest mentors as a goalie, and what was the most important thing you learned from each one?
A: I have a lot of great coaches that have mentored me as a goalie, perhaps the one with the biggest impact has been Jill Loyden. I have been training with Jill at The Keeper Institute in New Jersey and she has helped me improve the technical aspect of my game. In addition, she has helped me with the mental part of the game. She pushes me outside of my comfort zone by having me train with older and more experienced goalie keepers. They are all supportive and I admire their work ethic and dedication to the sport. She has taught me that mistakes are part game, but it is how I handle them that can impact the outcome. Most importantly, she always reminds us to have fun and enjoy the game.
Q: What is your favorite course at Agnes Irwin? What do you think you might like to major in at college? Is there a career path that particularly interests you at the present time?
A: Science is probably my favorite course. In college I hope to study either exercise science or physical therapy.
Fun facts – Sarah McConnon:
(To be selected as Main Line Girls Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by her coach.)