Choosing a starting goalkeeper for a reigning conference champion team isn’t an easy decision. But this year, all of non-conference play has come and gone and Loyola women’s soccer head coach Barry Bimbi still hasn’t made a clear decision.
Last year’s starting goalkeeper, senior Kate Moran, is out for the season with a torn ACL. So far this season, Bimbi has alternated between first-year Grace Droessler and sophomore Maddie Hausmann.
Bimbi said Droessler was recovering from an injury at first — she played her first game against University of Kansas Aug. 25. But he said he wanted to judge the two on an equal playing field.
“Credit to them, they’re making my decision very hard,” Bimbi said. “It’s a really good problem to have. … I think we have two of the better goalkeepers in the conference.”
Junior goalkeeper Rhadika Patel has only played half a game for Loyola so far this season, playing 45 minutes in an exhibition against University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Droessler won MVC Defensive Player of the Week Sept. 9 and Sept. 30 and leads Loyola’s goalkeepers with 605 minutes so far. She has 31 saves compared to Hausmann’s 14, but Hausmann has a higher save percentage with 73.7 percent. Droessler is at 72.1 percent.
Droessler took the starting spot against Drake University Sept. 28 in the conference opener, stopping all four shots. However, Bimbi said since first-years go through ups and downs in their first season, he doesn’t want to officially commit to her as a starter.
Right now, Droessler’s communication skills on the field are ahead of Hausmann’s, according to Bimbi. He said Hausmann is a good shot-stopper and plays well in the air, but still needs to work on communicating with the back line of defense.
Bimbi said Droessler hasn’t been named starter — even with her success so far — because he wanted to ease her into playing after her injury. He said this is why she didn’t play in preseason for the Ramblers.
“We kind of threw her to the wolves a little bit against Kansas as her first career start,” Bimbi said. “We wanted to see how she would react in the situation. After a really tough game … she’s responded really well.”
Against Kansas, Droessler let in six goals but had six saves. In the following game against Ball State University Sept. 1, she let in one goal with three saves. With Droessler’s start against Drake, she has now started seven games out of Loyola’s 11.
Even with Hausmann having a year of experience at Loyola over Droessler, Bimbi said Droessler has been able to catch up. He said she was trained well while in high school and has also had good training from assistant Loyola coach Katie Berkopec, so lack of college experience hasn’t shown.
Bimbi said the biggest thing he looks for when choosing a goalkeeper is someone who “has a presence” in the back, which was one reason Moran stood out. He said he wants someone who can communicate loudly and who the back line of defense can trust.
“We kind of threw [Droessler] to the wolves a little bit against Kansas as her first career start. … She’s responded really well.”
— Barry Bimbi, Loyola women’s soccer head coach
Every year when there isn’t a clear number one goalkeeper, Bimbi said he tries to give them all opportunities to prove themselves in games. Even if there happens to be a returning starter, the process stays pretty much the same with each player getting the chances in-game, he said.
During the goalkeepers’ Loyola training, Hausmann said they worked a lot on plays in the air with help from Berkopec.
“I feel like as a collective unit of all the goalkeepers, we really have gotten better at snagging balls out of the air and really getting our timing strong,” Hausmann said.
Droessler agreed and said they’ve been emphasizing communication on the pitch with all the goalkeepers. She said they’ve been improving on this throughout the season.
“Especially as a goalkeeper, as we get more comfortable with the team and the team with us, that’s something that we can excel in,” Droessler said.
Six games remain in the season and only time will tell whether Bimbi will stick with a consistent starter.
The Ramblers are set to take on University of Northern Iowa Oct. 5 at Loyola Soccer Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.