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Ryan Cooper | | August 14, 2016

5 goalies who will be tough to beat in 2016

  Casey Murphy (23) is looking to follow up an incredible 2015 season with another one for Rutgers.

A soccer team is often only as good as its defense, and a defense is often only as good as its goalkeeper. With college women's soccer season starting on Friday, here are five goalies who could be major factors between their teams faltering or playing for a championship.

Jane Campbell | Stanford

Campbell is one of three keepers on the MAC Hermann Trophy preseason watch list, a list that she has now appeared on two years in a row. The Kennesaw, Georgia, native enters her senior season with about as much experience as can ever be seen from a student-athlete. Not only was she the Cardinal’s starter for her first three years, but she also a number of summers with U.S. soccer, including an invite to the full U.S. national team camp in 2013. She was just 17 at that time, making her the youngest goalie to ever receive an invite. She continued to impress with a dominant 2015 season, including eight shutouts and a Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year award. She certainly looks to be one of the major strengths of the No. 5 team in the nation.

Casey Murphy | Rutgers

Murphy, like Campbell, has been starting since her freshman year, though she still has another year of eligibility left after this one. Last season as a sophomore, she was scary good. She broke the Rutgers record with 19 shutouts, meaning there were only seven games all year in which she allowed a goal. That figure was highlighted by an incredible eight-match scoreless streak to start the year, as she did not allow a goal until late September. All of that led to a College Cup appearance for Rutgers and second-team All-America honors for Murphy. Following up a 0.37 goals-against average is a very tall task, but tall is certainly one of Murphy’s qualities, and the 6-footer looks to be up to the challenge.

Rachel Boaz | BYU

It has been a fascinating journey leading up to her senior year for Boaz, who will be 24 years old during the season and has been in college since 2010. She began her career at San Diego State, where a serious bike accident broke her jaw and forced her to redshirt her freshman season. She recovered and started for the Aztecs for two years, and she dominated, putting up the best goals-allowed average in school history. However, she then chose to transfer to BYU, but not before serving an 18-month church mission. That finally got her to Provo, Utah, where she shone brightly with the nation’s second-best save percentage of .907. The 2015 West Coast Conference Goalkeeper of the Year is drawing a lot of expectations coming into her final season, and she has never shown any signs of disappointing.

RELATED: 7 seniors to watch in 2016

Kailen Sheridan | Clemson

Sheridan is another member of the MAC Hermann preseason watch list coming off a third-team All-American performance in 2015. The Canadian actually had a bit of a weaker season by her standards, putting up numbers of 1.03 goals against and a .750 save percentage. She seems like a prime candidate to bounce back for the No. 14 Tigers and get somewhere closer to the 0.56 GAA and .800 save percentage she posted in her 2014 sophomore year. Sheridan has a high amount of national experience for Canada, including a clean sheet against Iceland in the Algarve Women’s Cup back in March.

Rose Chandler | Penn State

It is only right to end the list with the starting goalie of the 2015 national champions, albeit one who only played in five matches last season. The redshirt sophomore was buried behind Britt Eckerstrom on the depth chart, but now that the incumbent has graduated, it’s Chandler’s time to shine. The Atlanta product has already made her name known in international play, earning a nomination for the CONCACAF Female Goakeeper of the Year in 2015 thanks to her stellar play as the starter in the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament in December for the United States. She received the Golden Glove award for that tournament, and now can turn her attention to leading the Nittany Lions’ efforts at a repeat. Obviously there’s always some level of uncertainty before a player shows once and for all what she can do, but Chandler should do some really nice things for her squad.

MORE: Women's college soccer primer: Penn State, Florida State in play for College Cup return

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