Central Missouri ran to the DII women's soccer national championship last season behind a well-balanced offensive and defensive machine. It also helped that Ana Dilkes was in net.
Dilkes recorded 21 shutouts in 26 games for the Jennies last season, capping her career with 64 shutouts, the most-ever in DII women’s soccer and second most all-time across all three divisions. The Jennies were a good team before Dilkes arrived, but she helped changed the landscape. UCM won 21 or more games every year she was in net, and Central Region titles and quarterfinal appearances became the norm in Warrensburg, Missouri.
To put it into perspective of just how dominating Dilkes was, the current active leader in shutouts at all three levels is 38 in Division I. Junior keeper Jackie Burns of Carson-Newman has blanked her opponent 25 times, leading all active DII women’s soccer goalkeepers in career shutouts. With three of the next four names on the active shutout list seniors, Dilkes’ record is seemingly safe for a while.
Or is it? While Jordyn Atagi has already posted two shutouts as she attempts to replace a legend at Central Missouri, she's already in her junior season. Let’s take a look at a few freshmen and sophomores who have had impressive starts to their young careers and could impact DII women's soccer like Dilkes once did.
Julia Coombs, Regis
The sophomore keeper had a brilliant freshman campaign in 2017 for the Rangers. She went 13-3-2 while posting 10 shutouts. Coombs hasn’t missed a beat in 2018 with three shutouts already on the season. She’s allowed just one goal while making 17 saves.
Beth Hopwood, Truman State
The perfect start to the freshman’s career in net for the Bulldogs came to an end this past weekend, as Hopwood finally allowed her first goal. Hopwood began her career a perfect 3-for-3 in shutouts per games played, and although she did allow that lone goal to Upper Iowa, she is still undefeated at 4-0-0 in her young collegiate career.
Kelsi Gibson, Central Oklahoma
It's like deja vu all over again. The Bronchos are 4-0-0 on the year, with each game thus far a final score of 2-0. Gibson has been in net for all four of them.
Gibson has now played four games in her collegiate career and has posted four shutouts. Most impressively, Gibson shut down the high-scoring Southwestern Oklahoma State offense. Backed by Sandra Nabweteme and Alimata Rabo, SWOSU's high-powered offense scored nine goals in its other three games but were blanked on Sept. 2 at Central Oklahoma. Like Dilkes, Gibson has a stout defense in front of her and hasn’t had to face many shots thus far, but there’s nothing wrong with having a little help.
Jessica Radice, Grand Valley State
You just know that the Lakers are going to win soccer games, so Radice is already in a great position. The sophomore only appeared in nine games last season, allowing just one goal, so this is her full-time audition as the everyday starter. Radice hasn’t allowed a goal since the first half on opening day, going three-and-half games since last allowing a ball to get past her.
Riley Travis, Seattle Pacific
The freshman keeper has split time thus far alongside senior Abby Smith in goal, but Travis’ numbers can’t be ignored. Both of her career starts have been shutouts, including a 16-save performance against Chico State on September 6.
Briana Vasquez-Ortiz, Cal. St. East Bay
The Pioneers are 5-0 this season and Vasquez-Ortiz has registered each win. Four of those victories have come in shutout fashion, as she's allowed just one goal on the season in a match against Dominican on Sept. 5. She’s had to make as many as eight saves and as little as none in her victories this season, so she can do it with a solid defense in front of her or seemingly by herself if needed. How much of an immediate impact has Vasquez-Ortiz made this season? The Pioneers won four games last season, and they have already surpassed that five games into 2018.
Melissa Torres, Mercy
Torres isn’t one for shutouts, with just one to her name. But the sophomore is coming off a big debut season in 2017, one of which was of historic proportions for the Mercy program. She actually went head-to-head with Dilkes in the national semifinals last season and though she made nine saves, she wasn’t able to hold off the Jennies. Just two games into their 2018 schedule, Torres looks like she’s set up for quite a few wins before her time in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. comes to a close.
(All stats through September 11, 2018. )