The ball is launched in the air and it’s up to one person to make the save. The goalie waits for her instincts to take control and blocks the ball from entering the goal. The fans, on the edge of their seats, are biting their lips, waiting as the goalie dives to make the great save and ensure a victory.
This year, Cornell women’s soccer has three equipped goalies that are all counted on each game to anchor the defense. The squad recruited two talented freshmen, Megan Bartlett and Kelly Murphy, to help in the Red’s defensive tactics, along with returning starter Jodi Palmer.
“Working with the other two goalies has made me a better goalie myself,” Bartlett said. “Every practice I have to work hard and become better if I want to play. I like it because it’s competitive and we’re all trying to earn playing time, but at the same time we all get along really well and encourage each other.”
Jodi Palmer, a sophomore, has seen extensive playing time after being the sole goalkeeper last year. She started in 15-of-16 games last year when she notched an impressive .643 save percentage. Her game against Buffalo this season marked the third shutout of her career and placed her in 11th place for all-time Cornell history. Additionally, in the Red’s 3-1 loss against Columbia, she beat her all-time record by making nine saves.
Named team captain her senior year of high school after guiding her team to three league championships, Murphy was also a two-sport league all-star in her junior and senior year. On top of playing soccer, Murphy competed on her school’s track team before she headed to the state finals for indoor shot put.
Growing up in California, Bartlett was recognized for her hard work as a senior in high school with first-team All-League and third-team All-CIF selections. She was also named the most valuable player for her swift defensive dexterity that showed when she yielded only ten goals throughout her 18 matches of the season and recording seven shutouts.
“I think the three of us are strong goalkeepers and as we continue to push each other our success will be sure to follow,” Murphy said. “We know how to goalkeep well, and the more we lead our team on the field the more success we are going to have.”
One of the biggest challenges of the seasons so far has been fostering communication between the goalie and defensive line to keep everyone organized and stop crucial plays. Also, a big change for the two freshman goalies was stepping up their style to correspond with the collegiate level; with much more skilled athletes, the girls had to sharpen their ball handling skills to avoid giving away rebounds and making cleaner saves. 
“We are the leaders on the field,” Murphy said. “Our vocal organization and ability to keep the team fighting is crucial, being able to do that is difficult but it can be done. We also have to be very mentally strong back there, because if we mess up it could cost a game, but we need to stay positive and relay that intensity and belief on to our teammates.”
Every day, the goalies practice together by improving their agility with drills consisting of shuffling, hopping and zig-zagging over cones while simultaneously catching the ball. Later, practices progress with all sorts of timed diving drills and making continuous saves in order to help with conditioning, before entering the goal and having the team attempt to score.
“The fact that goalies can go a long period of time in a game without touching the ball, and then having to make a key save without being actively a part of the game is a difficult aspect of the game,” Bartlett said. “Also, as a goalie if you make a mistake it usually results in a goal and is a lot more noticeable than if a field player makes a mistake.”
Trying to improve the Reds defensive effort, the squad acquired a new assistant coach, Brighid Wood, to help instruct training and drills for the goaltenders and push them to their fullest capabilities. With three goalies to pick from for each game, practices become very competitive because everyone is vying to start in the matchup. Fortunately, each player has unique capabilities that match up quite nicely with different opponents.
“We have had a rough season with some unfortunate losses,” Palmer said. “Hopefully we can bounce back and play well the rest of the season. I think we will reach our goals by continuing to push each other.”
After Cornell’s tough loss against Penn this weekend, the goalies as well as the rest of the team will continue to go to practice this week with the hope of redeeming themselves with a solid win in this weekend’s upcoming game.