Voelker a wall for soccer

Category:  Sports
Friday, November 22nd, 2019 at 11:04 AM
Voelker a wall for soccer by Erica Burkholder
Voelker played every minute of her freshman year and almost every minute of her sophomore year.

Playing every minute of your freshman year in college is not common. Playing almost every minute of your first two years — again, not common. That’s called being a mainstay in net.

Anna Voelker grew up watching her brothers and family play soccer since she was young, joking that, “she was born into watching soccer and thrown right into it.”

Her journey to Edinboro was started at summer soccer camps hosted on the campus when she was younger. Then, through a strange set of circumstances, she ended up as the only goalie on the Fighting Scots roster her freshman year (last season).

“It was awesome because I had that opportunity to be the only person here and start at such a young age, so that was an awesome opportunity. But, at the same time, being so young and not really having that experience was nerve wracking almost every game,” said Voelker.

She continued, “[Early on] not everyone has so much trust in you, and you just want to prove to everyone that you deserve to be out there, and it’s not just because you’re the only freshman (goalkeeper).”

As the only goalie, she played every minute in all 17 games last year (1,544 minutes total). The overwhelmingly young team — seven freshman, a redshirt freshman, 10 sophomores, a redshirt sophomore, two juniors and a lone senior — posted a record of 6-11.

“We really struggled. We didn’t have the experience that other teams did. We didn’t have chemistry with each other,” she said.

“We were a young defense, and we weren’t really that close to each other. Now that we’ve had at least two years together, we’re a lot more comfortable and we have that bond. We’re just really solid in the back,” said Voelker.

This year, she played every minute of 20 games, only missing time against West Chester where she was subbed off due to injury. It totaled 1,909 minutes. She also has a backup, Maddie Sleva, for the first time in her college career.

“I’m so thankful that she’s here, because if something happens, there’s at least someone good to go in for me,” she said.

Not only does having a backup mean that Voelker and the team don’t have to be as cautious as they were last year, but it means that practices have changed. The team had to be careful not to push her too hard previously, as she was the only goalie, but now that Sleva practices, the workload can be more intense.

“She pushes me to be the best that I can be,” said Voelker on the team’s other goalie.

Edinboro had five overtime games in October, adding a full game plus overtime onto their game load, something Voelker called “insane.”

“You have to do everything that you can ... that’s all I’m focused on, just keeping us in the game,” she said on the tense situations.

As mentioned, Voelker’s relationship with her defensive line has improved since last year. “I have way more confidence in talking to them and communicating with them,” she said. Voelker credits this to chemistry from spending time together.

“I think this season, just with that year under her belt, she’s grown incredibly,” said defensemen Maggie Fragapane.

“She’s a different keeper than she was last year. I think that Maddie (Sleva), the freshman goalie, really pushes her to be the best she can be. Them training together is really helpful because they’re both talented goalkeepers.”

Communication is something very important to this team. One of the times you see it is when a defender passes the ball back to Voelker to have her clear it.

“That’s a big trust thing. A lot of people are scared to do that,” said Voelker. “Or they’re afraid they’re going to under pass it or over pass it. Or [they’re afraid] the goalie’s going to miss it. There’s a lot of trust in that, in that play.”

Voelker has additional high praise for her team. “We are the hardest working team in the PSAC. I don’t think there are many teams that would outwork our effort ... we love that, we love to play high energy and maximum effort from every single player.”

The team returned the favor. “What doesn’t Anna bring to the team?” said Sidney Dobbins.

“She is one of our strengths in our team,” said Head Coach Gary Kagiavas.

“Aside from being a goalkeeper, she has great technical skills. She always has a great touch on the ball, so when she calls for it, we know that she’s gonna do everything she can to get it out,” said Fragapane.

“I think she’s the best goalie in PSAC, so we’re really, really lucky to have her,” said Dobbins.

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