Veteran goaltender pivotal part of soccer success

Anthony Maggio

For any soccer team to be successful, it must have a solid defense.

The defense is centered around one person – the goalie. The goalie must stop shots from all angles. The goalie directs the team where to be on the field. The goalie puts the weight of the game on her shoulders every game.

Minnesota senior Julie Eibensteiner furnishes the Gophers with the stable stopper they need to return to the top of the Big Ten.

“She has great hands and she’s very quick, so she’s a great shot stopper,” head coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “When she’s on and consistent, she’s hard to be beat.”

Eibensteiner earned the starting role for Minnesota last season, finishing seventh in the Big Ten with a 1.38 goals allowed per game. She tied for third in saves (125) and ranked fifth in shutouts. But the offense had difficulty producing, and the Gophers finished with an 8-10-1 record, the first losing season in team history.

“Some games we just weren’t all on the same page,” Eibensteiner said. “It was kind of unexplainable.”

Being both a senior and the starting goalie puts Eibensteiner in a leadership role by trade. She will have to lead by performing on the field as well speaking up when the team needs an emotional lift.

“She just needs to be more of a vocal leader and positive influence on the team as a whole,” Wickstrand said. “We’re going to be looking for Julie to not only play consistently but also save our butts a couple times.”

Eibensteiner, a St. Paul native, stopped 125 shots last season and finished with a .828 save percentage. She has been working out on her own and practicing with teammates in order to prepare for Aug. 14, the team’s first day of practice.

Eibensteiner’s experience should help her be even more consistent guarding the net this year. Last season was Eibensteiner’s first as starter and the team’s first year under Wickstrand.

The transition played a major part in their difficulties last season, but Eibensteiner is confident the team is fully adjusted.

“I think people will arrive in shape and things are hopefully going to go pretty smoothly,” Eibensteiner said.

Eibensteiner has been practicing this summer with teammate Amy Khaleel, who shoots on Eibensteiner three or four times a week as they prepare for the season to begin.

“Julie is by far the hardest worker I’ve met in my entire life,” Khaleel said. “She trains so much in the summertime its unbelievable – her work ethic and all. She’s a really talented goalie. She’s possibly the best I’ve ever played with.”

Eibensteiner’s modesty keeps her focused on team goals, but she expects to always play her best and put up career numbers this season.

“Hopefully we can take it more game by game,” Eibensteiner said. “We need to just work on improving every game and hopefully improve on the record from last year.”

 

Anthony Maggio welcomes comments at [email protected]