Soccer players have had better luck scoring against a brick wall than on Ana Dilkes the past three seasons.
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Central Missouri's senior keeper has had a highly-decorated career since taking net in 2014. She began her career as Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association's co-Goal Keeper of the Year and has been an All-American and Goalkeeper of the Year ever since. The past two seasons, she set and then broke her program-record goals against average, leading all of DII soccer last season with a stingy 0.27 GAA. She also posted a program-record 17 shutouts, also best in DII, as was her .944 save percentage.
This year? Her GAA is a whopping 0.00.
Eight games into the season, and Dilkes is perfect. And so are the No. 3-ranked Jennies.
"My approach has been the same year in and year out," Dilkes said. "We have always had a solid defense and have taken tremendous pride in what we do back there. We know teams will create good chances, so staying connected to the game and communicating with my teammates in front of me is huge. No game is an easy game, it’s a result of the hard work we all put in everyday. We try to treat every game like the most important game of the year."
The Jennies have compiled a 71-5-3 record since Dilkes arrival. Three of those losses have come deep into the NCAA postseason, all at the hands of Grand Valley State. This is Dilkes' last run at the national championship, but that hasn't changed her outlook that she's had from day one.
"I think every year we believe that a championship is in our grasp," Dilkes said. "That’s what we strive for the moment we get on the field. Each game is a stepping stone closer to where we want to be. We are taking the season day by day and at each practice we work together to get physically and mentally stronger to meet the challenge. We all have a collective belief in each other and our potential, we just have to keep working to reach it."
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That's the way it is on the Warrensburg, Missouri campus. That's how it was before Dilkes, and that's how it will likely remain after Dilkes. Winning is an attitude amongst the Jennies. It's the culture and a must-have for any future UCM student-athlete to possess.
"UCM is the program it is because of the people," Dilkes said. "We have the best coaches, administration, trainers, and athletes a program could ask for. The people who came before us set the bar that we have been determined to exceed each year. They created the culture and we’ve been trying to extend their legacy everyday since. Our staff does everything in their power to prepare us for each game. We all wouldn’t be where we are without Coach [Lewis] Theobald. He knows how good we can be and holds us to a high standard. It’s a collective effort, but I'd say it’s the perfect mixture of people."
We know who Dilkes is on the field. Let's go behind the goalie gloves and net, and meet DII's top tender of net.
Favorite sports movie: Remember the Titans because it’s a true story. I love watching movies based on true stories.
Favorite soccer team: USWNT. Soccer is my sport and I enjoy watching them compete. I admire their desire to win, along with the effort they put into the game. They are role models for all the youth players in the country who aspire to play at a highest level.
Favorite soccer player: I have many favorite soccer players but I really respect and enjoy watching Mallory Pugh play. What she is doing at her age is incredible.
What’s in your headphones pregame to get ready for a match: I usually don’t have the aux-cord in the locker room but if I were to request a song it would be Pump It by Black Eyed Peas.
Superstitions: I don’t consider these superstitions but I have a couple pregame rituals with teammates.
Favorite pregame meal: A turkey sandwich, preferably from Subway.
Favorite cartoon growing up: SpongeBob always made me laugh.
If they made a movie about the UCM soccer team, who would you want to play you? Jennifer Lawrence.
Favorite TV Show: Suits and One Tree Hill.