Mark Woodcock just laughed.
The coach of the Cheltenham girls’ soccer team had, in fairness, been asked a nearly impossible question. He had been asked to try and pick out one game where goalkeeper Eliana Weiler had played far and above and kept the Panthers in a game they probably shouldn’t have been in.
Woodcock did try to think about it, but he couldn’t pick just one. The reason is that pretty much every time Cheltenham played the last two seasons, Weiler kept the Panthers in the game when they probably shouldn’t have been.
Cheltenham didn’t win a game last season and only had one victory this fall, but the full measure of Weiler’s impact isn’t measured in wins or losses, or even saves. It’s measured in her loyalty, her passion and her personality.
“I’ll be honest, after her sophomore year, I half-expected her to head off somewhere else to further her soccer ambitions,” Woodcock said. “She likes it here, she likes the camaraderie with the girls we have her. The kind of students we have at Cheltenham are such fine young people, it’s hard to leave that behind.”
Weiler, a senior, was an All-SOL American pick at goalkeeper her sophomore and junior seasons and it’s not uncommon for opposing coaches to single out her play, even in games Cheltenham may lose by four or five goals. She’s made upwards of 20 to 25 saves in a game before and she will be continuing her career next fall at Misericordia.
The twist to the story is that this season was only Weiler’s third year playing as a keeper. Prior to transferring into Cheltenham before her sophomore year, Weiler was a field player and even spent her freshman season at Cavalry Christian Academy playing midfield.
“Transferring to this school made a major impact, Cheltenham is one of the most important things to me, and playing for this school the last three years has made a significant impact in my life,” Weiler said. “Playing here is right behind God, family and soccer in what’s most important to me.”
Weiler also plays club soccer for Warminster SC, where her FC Lightning roster includes some top local players like Lansdale Catholic’s Sarah Cooney, Archbishop Wood’s Kasey McCormick, Souderton’s Bre DiRenzi and Taylor Mortiz and CB West’s Sam Lubin.
Lubin, a senior midfielder for the Bucks, has also committed to play at Misericordia and knows just how good Weiler is. While she called Weiler underrated, Lubin also said it’s Weiler’s positivity and energy that were just as impactful for their club team, especially after an injury to one of their key defenders last summer.
“She’s definitely underrated, a lot of people don’t know how good she is,” Lubin said during the season. “Even for our club team, she was always saving us and she was kind of the heart to our team.”
When it came to playing soccer, Weiler really didn’t have a choice, it’s in her genes. Her father, Bob, is German and her mother, Myriam, is Brazilian. Things can get tense during international competition if the two countries happen to meet, but the game is a shared love between Weiler, her parents and older brother Caleb.
Weiler is learning Portugese, which her mother speaks fluently, her father speaks German and Weiler said experiencing both of her parents’ native cultures molded her into the person she is today.
Although she loved the game, she wasn’t sure what she got herself into when her club coaches encouraged her to start reaching out to colleges. Woodcock felt like Weiler could have played and thrived at a Division II school but also knew Weiler was mature enough that she would only go to the place that felt most right to her.
“I had a lot of coaches tell me I was good enough to play and had a lot of coaches in contact with me but for me I had to settle on the right place for me in terms of athletics and academics,” Weiler said. “I picked a school for academics first. Misericordia has a very good physical therapy program and a very good (biology) program, which is what I want my major to be. It’s going to be hard, but also very good for me.”
Cheltenham went 5-12 overall in Weiler’s sophomore year, her first playing keeper. While she was a natural at the positon, and even with her coach fearing she might head to a stronger program or the option to focus solely on club, Weiler felt right at home at Cheltenham.
“She was a young lady who I recognized was special after about two hours and I think it took about two weeks for me to completely realized what I had here,” Woodcock said. “It’s not just the athleticism, she’s one of those exceptional athletes that only come around occasionally, but there was something about her mental makeup that makes her a natural competitor. It doesn’t mean you have to be mean or nasty, she’s an unbelievably nice person, but she has that competitive edge that only a few have.”
Among the challenges the Panthers face is that most of their players don’t play club soccer. The players certainly give maximum effort but competing against teams where the majority of the athletes are year-round players makes the climb tougher for Cheltenham.
Last season’s team was also loaded with seniors, so Weiler was one of few upperclassmen on this fall’s team. It thrust her into a position of leadership and was yet another scenario where the senior took is as a challenge and a learning experience. Throughout the year, Weiler said her goal was to make the underclassmen know it was ok if they made mistakes because they were trying to build with each game.
She faced a lot of shots during the season, but Weiler knew she had to be in goal every day not for herself, but for her teammates.t
“Facing a lot of shots can be very tiring and I know I have to keep my mentality where I’m at the top of my ability as often and as much as I can,” Weiler said. “It wears on the body, but you focus on taking care of yourself and you’re able to be back at it the next day.”
Weiler also showed plenty of toughness this season, playing every minute in goal while battling a shoulder injury known as Distal Clavicle Osteolysis.
“Basically, my collarbone isn’t always connected to my shoulder,” Weiler said. “During my last game of the season last year, I came out on a 1-v-1 and landed on it and it just cracked across. It’s basically having to deal with something causing minimal problems and working through it.”
Cheltenham may have finished the year with just one win, but Weiler again played at a superb level, making double-digit saves routinely and trying to encourage her underclassmen teammates. The senior even scored a goal late in the season, when a long punt caught the opponent out of position and the ball rolled all the way into the other net.
On top of playing soccer and managing schoolwork, Weiler also has a part-time job so she joked she’ll have plenty of experience in time management when she heads off to college. She’s also very musically inclined, able to play the piano and ukulele and a singer.
Woodcock said it was a pleasure to coach someone like Weiler and the English import knows he’s losing more than just an underrated goalkeeper.
“It’s the real measure, it’s not the number of saves, it’s that we as a team know we have somebody back there who will never give anything less than 100 percent to help the team win,” Woodcock said. “She kind of represents everything this club is about, these well-rounded young ladies that I have here.”
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