Freshmen Battle to be Top Keeper

(From left to right) Goalkeepers Morgan Strassburg and Morgan McCutcheon, both freshmen, laugh when they get the ball back after kicking it over the fence while warming up at halftime during their game against Plymouth State on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Tyger Allen, Sports Manager

The rush of a championship victory is over. The younger players have stepped into their new roles and will take over for the six seniors who graduated last year. But, for freshman goalkeepers Brooke Hathaway, Morgan Strassburg and Morgan McCutcheon, their role is uncertain.

Of course, they know that their role is to keep the ball out of the net, but there is no clear owner of the position.

“Right now they’re all battling it out to be the number one,” said Head Coach Tim Moody. “At the moment, there is no clear favorite.”

For the last two seasons, it was Natalie O’Donovan who carried the weight of the season for the goalkeepers. After making 12 saves and allowing one goal in the three-game playoffs last year, O’Donovan capped off her senior year with a dominant performance.

This year, Coach Moody added the three goaltenders to the roster and had six games before Commonwealth Coast Conference play began to decide who will start against Nichols College on Sept. 15.

In the Hawks’ first game, the first round of Springfield College’s Invitational, they defeated Eastern Connecticut State in a 1-0 overtime win. It was Strassburg who guarded the net first, saving all three shots on goal. Her shutout performance put her in a good position for the top spot, especially after the Hawks lost their game against the Warriors last year.

Hathaway, who hails from Utah, got the start for the second game against the host, Springfield College. Like last year, the Pride outplayed the Hawks, securing a 5-1 victory. Hathaway faced 10 shots that game, saving only half.

The game, despite its score, is not reflective of how the Hawks will play in their own conference. Last season, the Hawks lost to Springfield College 4-0 where backup goalkeeper Alexis Wright also saved half the shots she faced.

In the third game, Strassburg got the start again — seeming as if she is expected to take the lead role. In the first half, she allowed four goals on a whopping 16 shots by Connecticut College. In the second half, it was Hathaway who came in on relief. Facing 11 shots on goal, she only allowed one.

“I was looking to split them 45 minutes, anyway. Even though Morgan, who started, let’s say conceded the four goals, I wouldn’t say the four goals were her fault,” said Coach Moody.

According to Strassburg, the competition is welcome amongst the goalkeepers. She believes that no matter who gets the spot, it will be deserved.

“I’m working hard personally on my own skills, but at the same time, all three of us are working together because we want each other to get better,” said Strassburg. “We’re not fighting against each other, we’re fighting for our team.”

The good news for the Hawks is that these early games are primarily to test the team. The first three teams they have faced are dominant in their own divisions. Springfield College is beginning their season looking to defend their back-to-back titles in their conference.

“We play the best teams out there and we all learn from these past few games and the next couple games coming up,” said Coach Moody. “And hopefully from that, we should get better — we should develop.”

Any plans that may have been set by the coaching staff needed to be re-evaluated following RWU’s 1-0 loss to Plymouth State University – and not because of poor goalkeeping. In the second half of the game, Brooke Hathaway, in her second start, received a blow to her chest from an opponent that put her back to the turf.

“I got kneed in the chest, so I really can’t breathe,” Hathaway said following the game.

With some assistance, she walked off the field. Almost immediately following the injury, Strassburg and McCutcheon warmed up in the time it took Coach Moody to select one of them. It was Strassburg who took the field in relief.

The Hawks dropped to 1-3 overall following the loss to Plymouth State, but the first true test will come when the Hawks play their first CCC opponent. Surrounding themselves with talent and facing a bombardment of shots will show the young goalkeepers how demanding their role is on a team looking to defend a conference title of their own. But without having past experience to look at, the choice of starting goalkeeper will be a gamble for Coach Moody.

“Hopefully by the time the playoffs come around, we’ll see who stands out.”