October 17, 2007

W. Soccer’s Palmer Anchors Defensive Unit

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When freshman goalkeeper Jodi Palmer got a call from new Head coach Danielle LaRoche in August, she though their discussion might cover practice schedules, transportation arrangements or any other details that incoming freshmen have to deal with. One thing she didn’t expect, however, was that she had been named the starting goalkeeper even before setting foot on a college field.
Palmer is at the center of the Red’s transition to the future, highlighted by LaRoche, its young, attack-oriented and fiery new coach, and freshman Lena Russomagno, the dynamic forward who led the team in goals scored prior to its recent slump. The Red front line was made up of two freshmen, Russomagno and Natalie Zandt, along with sophomore Eva Dixon prior to midseason injuries to both Zandt and Dixon.
Palmer has played as well as could be expected of the freshman thus far this season, recording two shutouts early in the year. She played a critical role in the Red’s last two victories against Lafayette and Niagara, where she made several key saves early in the game to allow the offense to steal the victory late.
“I feel I have played pretty consistently throughout the season,” Palmer said. “The game I remember most was when we played Niagara. I had three of four saves right before the end of the first half, and I felt like those saves kept us in the game.”
The Maple Valley, Wash., native came in as a highly touted prospect and leader. She was named the First-Team All-State goalkeeper in her junior and senior seasons. As a junior in 2005, Palmer was the MVP of a high school squad that went onto win the Washington State Title — posting six shutouts along the way.
She also supplemented her high school season with competitive club-team play. Still, of course, the transition to the Division I level was not an easy one — and it is ongoing.
“High school soccer is nowhere near the same level of play as college soccer,” she said. “When I found out [I was starting], I was so excited but, at the same time, I was nervous because I didn’t know if I was going to be good enough to play … In the beginning, I could tell that I wasn’t used to the level of play, but the more I practiced and played, the better I felt about myself.”
Palmer’s progression is occurring on a game-by-game basis. The freshman is already much more aggressive than she was earlier in the season, gaining the confidence to challenge attackers by moving further out the box. More recently, however, the pressure has shifted to the defensive side of the field as the Red’s offense has sputtered. Cornell has not scored a goal in its last five games, all losses.
Fortunately, Palmer has the luxury of playing behind a veteran defensive unit anchored by four-year starter Leslie Campbell.
“The defense has done an outstanding job keeping pressure off of me,” Palmer said. “I may put a little more pressure on myself now that we haven’t been scoring [but] we know it’s a team effort both ways.”