In a sport that determines its winners and losers based on number of goals scored, it makes sense most of the attention is directed toward the soccer players who put the ball in the back of the net. But the players who are the last line of defense deserve a mention.
The halfway mark of the women's college soccer season is here, as the College Cup kicks off in San Jose on Dec. 6. So let's take some time to highlight some of the top goalkeepers in women's college soccer so far this season.
Here are five of the top-performing goalkeepers to this point in 2019:
Claudia Dickey, Sophomore — North Carolina
Although Claudia Dickey has the shortest amount of playing time recorded so far this season on this list, she is starting to establish herself as the main go-to on the backline for the most successful women's college soccer program ever — North Carolina. Expectations were high when Dickey was recruited to play for the Tar Heels.
"Huge potential. Very good vision when she gains possession. Very good hands. Has the potential to be one of the best distributors of the ball of all time in a Tar Heel jersey," UNC's head coach Anson Dorrance said of Dickey. "Has the potential to be one of the best goalkeepers we’ve ever coached."
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With Dickey starting to eclipse her fellow Carolina keeper Marz Josephson in time played, it is starting to become clear why Dorrance had such high expectations. Dickey has only allowed two goals scored on her all year and has a goals-allowed-average of .243 — currently fourth in the entire NCAA. Although she hasn't seen all of the playing time in goal, Dickey is starting to emerge as Carolina's go-to keeper and has put up impressive stats doing so.
With the likes of ACC offensive stars like Florida State's Deyna Castellanos and Virginia's Diana Ordonez firing balls at her throughout conference play and likely the conference tournament, Dickey's performance speaks volumes in one of the most competitive conferences in women's soccer. The Tar Heels are in good shape as they stare down the last three matches of the regular season. They sit atop the current ACC standings at 5-0-1 in conference play.
Elizabeth Moberg, Junior — Memphis
Memphis has had a steady rise in the rankings this season. In the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll, the Tigers clocked in at No. 20 and climbed all the way to No. 8 later in the year. They now sit at No. 12 and wouldn't be there without their wall int the back, Elizabeth Moberg. Moberg has clocked 1,165 minutes in goal, 13th most in the NCAA, and has spent most of that time stifling offenses. She's only allowed three goals scored on her all year, with a goals-allowed-average of .232 — second best in the nation. Moberg and her defense have been tearing through the American Athletic Conference as they have accumulated nine shutouts, four more than the next goalie in the conference.
A strong defense has propelled Memphis to consistent mainstays in the nation's top-15 and atop the American. One thing that has held the Tigers and Moberg back is their lack of experience against ranked teams. They are 1-1 in those matches, with a 2-1 loss against then-No. 18 Kansas and a 2-1 win versus conference foe and then-No. 16 South Florida. With Moberg and company putting up some of the best numbers defensively in women's soccer, they'll be put to the test once they hit the NCAA tournament. Keep an eye on Moberg though, as she has proven herself to be one of the top goalkeepers in the country thus far.
Jordyn Bloomer, Senior — Wisconsin
Jordyn Bloomer has been a force in the back for Wisconsin this year, and the Badgers are much better off because of it. They sit second in the Big Ten with 18 points and are the only undefeated team in the conference. Bloomer and the Badgers' defense have been solid all year, shutting out and beating opponents like No. 21 UCF, No. 19 Michigan and early-season Big Ten favorite Penn State. She has eight clean sheets under her belt with an impressive .875 save percentage. Bloomer also has a goals-allowed-average of .371 — putting her in the nation's top 10 in that specific category. Her five goals allowed all year has propelled Wisconsin into the top-10 in United Soccer Coaches' latest rankings.
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The Badgers are currently 10-2-1 and have hopped two spots to their highest rank all year at No. 10. They have slowly climbed the poll all year, after the devastating news that they lost their star Victoria Pickett for the year due to a knee injury before the season even started. Wisconsin has had players step up all year in Pickett's place, like Dani Rhodes, who currently leads the Big Ten in game-winning goals with five. Wisconsin is riding a six-game winning streak, with five coming on the back of Bloomer and the Wisconsin defense. The Badgers have only allowed one goal over that span and will continue to look toward their stoutness in the back through their last four regular-season matches.
Katie Lund, Senior — Arkansas
Arkansas is on the rise. The Razorbacks recently clocked in at No. 8 in the latest edition of the United Soccer Coaches rankings — the program's first time in the top 10 all year. Lund has had an impressive season, leading the entire SEC in save percentage with a mark of .909, a stat that puts her third in the NCAA. Lund has also produced seven shutouts for Arkansas and has a goals-against-average of .315 with four goals scored on her all year.
Arkansas has been on a slow and steady rise, but it seems to be peaking at the right time. With the Razorbacks being ranked the highest they have been all year, they're just one spot behind South Carolina — the highest-ranked SEC team. That mark of being second is familiar to Arkansas, as the team is also tied for second with Florida in the SEC standings. One treasure the Razorbacks have under their belts though, that no one else has, is a win over perrenial women's soccer power and No. 3 in the country North Carolina — the Tar Heels' only loss on the year. This victory came on the back of Lund and the Razorbacks' defense in a 2-0 shutout.
Arkansas is now 11-2-1, and fresh off of a three-game winning streak. The Razorbacks have to keep their offense rolling and their defense tight if they want to compete against South Carolina for the SEC crown. Although the Razorbacks already lost to the Gamecocks earlier this season, they might have a chance to redeem themselves in the upcoming SEC tournament.
Laurel Ivory, Junior — Virginia
Congrats Laurel Ivory!— Virginia Women's Soccer (@UVAWomenSoccer) October 15, 2019
✅ ACC Defensive Player Of The Week (for the third time)
✅ Two shutouts on the road in ACC play last week
✅ 🖐️straight clean sheets in ACC play
✅ 527 minutes in goal since last goal allowed#GoHoos | #Wahoowa ⚽️🔥 pic.twitter.com/o1mD65JHvY
It wouldn't be news to say Virginia is killing it in the world of women's college soccer this year, but it is intriguing to note the Cavs have been doing so on the back of their tremendous goalkeeper Laurel Ivory. Fresh off of her third ACC Defensive Player of the Week award, Ivory has been the spice to UVA's sweet offense. The No. 1 Hoos are currently 11-0-3 and is one of two undefeated teams left in play this season. The Cavaliers are also sitting in the No. 1 position for the fifth straight week, as it has come via Ivory's commanding play in the goal — UVA hasn't allowed a goal in the past five matches.
Ivory currently boasts the highest goals-against-average in the ACC with .239, a mark that puts her third in the entire NCAA. She also has only allowed three goals scored on her all year, with a save percentage of .864 — second highest in the ACC. Ivory has five clean sheets in ACC play with the most recent coming against defending champion Florida State. This has been the story for Virginia all year, as they continue their unbeaten streak in the conference — if its offense isn't up to par, its defense exceeds expectations.
The Cavaliers will have four matches left in the regular season with their toughest opponent, No. 14 Louisville, coming to Charlottesville on Thursday, Oct. 24. If it can get past the Cardinals, there is a good chance Virginia will be undefeated heading into the ACC tournament.