July 22, 2014
BOISE, Idaho - On a team returning loads of skill and the experience to match, one question mark looms large: who will replace all-conference goalkeeper Maddy McDevitt? Boise State boasts a stable of three talented keepers in 2014, but the trio combines for just nine minutes and 23 seconds of Division I game experience.
McDevitt turned in one of the best seasons by a keeper in school history last year, posting school records for shutouts (eight) and goals-against average (0.78) on her way to being named All-Mountain West Second Team.
"Maddy was fantastic because she was rock solid," said assistant coach Ed Moore who works with the goalkeepers. "You could count on her for all the saves she was supposed to make and she also gave us the added benefit of making that one big-time save that could save a game for you."
McDevitt was the lynchpin of a Boise State defense that led the Mountain West with 0.83 goals allowed per game. After also starting in front of the net the year before, McDevitt and the defenders played with a synergy that will be difficult to replace.
"Because of her experience, the back line really relied on her and they could put it in the bank that she was going to be steady," Moore said. "That's a big piece we'll miss with her."
That level of trust, Moore said, is something the team has really been working on developing between the experienced Bronco defenders and the group of young keepers.
Sophomore Bailey Anderson is the only Bronco goalkeeper with any game experience at this level. Redshirt sophomore Kylie Mascol was on the Boise State roster last season after posting 11 shutouts as a freshman at Walla Walla Community College in 2011. Freshman Janelle Flores begins her collegiate career after a decorated prep career in Southern California.
"I think it will be a battle week to week, I really do," Moore said. "Ideally we would like to have someone who clearly establishes herself as the number one, but if it's a week-to-week competition there are a lot of plusses to that. Pushing everyone to be dialed in every week will push them all to get better."
The two returning keepers, Anderson and Mascol, pushed each other during the spring season. Each benefited from the added reps and the opportunity to build cohesion and confidence in game settings.
"I think Kylie would be the leader in the clubhouse, just because she had an outstanding spring," Moore said. "She saw dividends getting in games in the spring. Getting those situational experiences really helped her out."
Mascol is a Boise native, graduating from Boise High School where she led the Braves to the 5A state championship in 2010. She played one season at Walla Walla, leading the Warriors to a playoff berth and a 12-1-3 record in league play.
"She's added a few elements to her game," Moore said of Mascol's growth in the last year. "She is a good distributor, she plays really well with her feet. She has become more comfortable as an organizer, helping our defense get aligned."
Anderson appeared in one game last season as a freshman. She made her collegiate debut at Colorado State, playing the final 9:23 and finishing off a shutout. She will take that experience and a ton of physical ability into the position battle.
"Bailey has a special athleticism; she has a shot-stopping ability and is a tremendously hard worker," Moore said. "She has several tools. She did go on the road last year, so she has experience traveling. It's hard to replicate walking into an away stadium with fans, being in that environment with fans and understanding what it's like to play a road conference game."
Anderson, originally from Snohomish, Wash., came to Boise State with a lot of high-level experience under her belt. She was a four-year letterwinner and two-time all-conference performer at Glacier Peak High School.
The newest face for the Broncos, Flores comes from Hesperia, Calif., and Serrano High School. The 5-foot-10 freshman brings with her all the tools a coach could ask for out of a young keeper.
"She's a very powerful goalkeeper," said Moore. "She has the ability to make the big save and is a natural leader. Her physical stature gives her a presence and I think it's really tough for teams to deal with that. She comes off her line and takes crosses. She has a real command of the box."
Even with high-level skills and all-CIF honors in tow, there is going to be a learning curve for Flores at the collegiate level.
"She's going to have to get up to speed quickly when it comes to shot stopping. It's a different level from club. The speed of the shot, the ability to hit from distance and crazy angles is just so much better at the college level. She's going to have to get up to speed on reading shots and positioning herself more quickly."
No matter which Bronco steps up and straps on the gloves on a given day, the coaching staff understands there will be a different feel at the position than Boise State soccer has had in recent years. Ever since Bronco great Liz Ruiz won the starting goalkeeper spot as a freshman in 2008, the starting keeper has either been the returning starter or had already spent at least two years in the program.
"There are going to be growing pains with a young keeper," Moore said, "plus goalkeeping is an unforgiving position to begin with."
Head coach Jim Thomas and Moore have a very clear plan for what Boise State is looking for in a goalkeeper. While Moore said the specific attributes the Broncos seek may not be novel or unique, they are well known within the program.
"A goalkeeper competent playing with their feet is big. We are a possession team, so we rely on our back line to start our possession. If they get in trouble, it's great to be able to turn around and play it to a keeper."
"We want someone who is a good, basic shot stopper," he continued. "We want them to have basic technique when it comes to catching and handling. I train our keepers to be very high percentage when it comes to middle-third of the goal. There just aren't very many of those curling, upper-90, jaw-dropping goals. If you can be really confident and consistent saving what you're supposed to save in that middle third and maybe give us one or two outside of that per game, it's usually enough to carry the day. We really work on the fundamentals of catching, diving and angle play to cover that middle-third in a high-percentage way. It's a mentality for us. We're big on anticipating what we're going to give up, so it's my job to train the goalkeepers to see and anticipate those things that we already know we're playing to give up. We train them really to see the situations they're going to see in the games."
The Broncos begin official practices Aug.6, before kicking off the season Aug.22 and 24, at the Portland State Tournament.