Protector of the realmPublished 6:00pm Friday, April 26, 2013
Somehow the phrase “on an island” doesn’t seem to do it justice. Having to guard a territory 24 feet wide and eight feet high, it can seam more like realm, and often the protector stands alone in the middle armed only with instinct and reflexes. Yet somehow Washington goalkeeper Emily Alligood manages to defend her land.
“It can be very intimidating,” Alligood said. “Especially on high balls. Even though I’m a tall goalkeeper it’s still very hard to get those shots in between the top of your glove and the goal post. It’s that perfect angle that a person can shoot it at that’s the hardest to stop.”
It’s challenge that all those who accept the job face, and according to Pam Pack soccer coach Ed Rodriguez, there may not be one better at in the Coastal Conference.
“She has great hands and she comes out after the ball well,” Rodriguez said. “She’s tall and of all the tall goalies we have seen in the league she’s the best one.”
The 5-9 sophomore has been a two-year starter for Washington and has grown leaps and bounds since her rookie season.
“We decided to go with a freshman last year and she did a really good job,” Rodriguez said. “This year she has gotten better. She’s better at handling the ball and with her communication and goal kicks.”
For Alligood, her improvement has grown parallel with her confidence.
“As a freshman I was very unconfident because I was new to the high school experience and I felt very small even though I was the tallest person on the team,” Alligood said. “But now, I’m more confident in myself and playing the high school game. It’s been a big improvement.”
Alligood has been playing soccer since she was six years old and as she grows so does her knowledge of the game. While good reach and leaping ability can often save a goalie, a quality keeper must know how to play all the angles like a crafty carney.
“It’s just all about angle play,” Alligood said. “That’s the hardest thing because you have to be positioned just right to play the ball, especially when diving.”
Unfortunately, Alligood learned that lesson the hard way. Sometimes when facing a fastbreak Alligood will charge the oncoming player and lay her body out horizontally in a last-ditch attempt to block a shot in the same manner as a defenseman does in hockey.
Last season, Alligood attempted to defend a breakaway and did just that but instead of shielding the ball with her stomach she took a cleat to her head, which resulted in a concussion.
“The scariest shots to defend are the breakaways when I have to slide on the ground because they can shoot it right at your face,” Alligood said. “Last season I got kicked in the head and got a concussion from a breakaway and I still don’t remember it.”
The incident was a scary one, but like all great proctors of the realm Alligood remains brave. Instead of cowering, Alligood has chosen to learn from the lesson, and though she doesn’t remember the play, it remains in the back of her mind.
“The first practice when I came back I thought about it a little bit but I’ve overcome it and am back to (defending) breakaways,” Alligood said. “But, I always think about it.”