Last line of defense
Maverick goalkeeper Schnetzler adept at keeping the ball out of the net
Sarah Schnetzler always wanted to play goalie.
Finally, when her club coach seemed to have no other choice, Schnetzler’s coach — and father — put her in goal.
She’s been a soccer goalkeeper for close to eight years now, and she’s the backbone of the Colorado Mesa University women’s soccer defense.
“I love it,” Schnetzler said. “It’s become a big part of my life.”
The CMU sophomore has three shutouts this season and last week was selected the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference defensive player of the week. The Mavericks (4-0-2, 1-0-1 RMAC) have limited their opponents to five goals in six games this season.
“What makes Sarah so dangerous is her game is a complete game,” CMU women’s soccer coach Erin Sharpe said. “She’s very good with distribution. She comes off her line and plays well with her feet. She’s one of our smartest soccer players and has us well-organized.
“I’ve said for the last two years, I think we have the strongest defense in the RMAC, which starts with being organized, which the goalkeeper has a lot to do with. She’s got very good hands. She’s got the complete package.”
Colorado Mesa hosts New Mexico Highlands (2-4, 0-2 RMAC) at 7 p.m. Friday and Adams State (3-2, 2-0 RMAC) at 3 p.m. Sunday. Both games are at Walker Field.
Despite being picked to finish last in the RMAC, Adams State started this season with conference victories over Colorado Christian and Highlands.
“We recognize the fact this is a very tight conference, especially the top half,” Sharpe said. “Every point is critical. New Mexico Highlands is struggling more this year than in the past, but soccer is such a low-scoring game that anything can happen. We know that. It’s turned into a very physical rivalry. It’s a matchup we’re prepared for a bloodbath.”
Four Mesa players were injured in the game against Highlands last year, including two who went to the hospital, one for a concussion and another for a lower-back injury. Five yellow cards were issued in the 1-1 draw.
Schnetzler witnessed the game firsthand, making six saves, including two in the second overtime.
She came to Colorado Mesa after attending a couple of Mesa camps while in high school.
“I knew I wanted to come here badly,” Schnetzler said. “It was my top choice. I was offered a scholarship the last day of camp, and I took it.”
The Chatfield High School (Littleton) graduate worked out with her club goalkeeper coach to prepare her for college soccer and proved she was ready.
Schnetzler played in 16 games last season with 13 starts last year.
“I did not expect it,” Schnetzler said. “Mainly because they had a senior goalkeeper last year, and I’m coming in as a freshman. ... I kept pushing through, fighting. I got the opportunity and took it.”
The speed of the players was the biggest adjustment for Schnetzler, who has played goalkeeper since age 11. The power of the shots she faces and the overall talent on the field is significantly better than high school, too.
“We’re playing against women here,” she said. “I knew the things I needed to work on. I did a lot of practice. My quickness, being ready for shots.”
Through the years, Schnetzler has taken some brutal shots and survived.
“It’s part of the game,” she said of the physical beating a goalkeeper receives. “You learn to shake it off. You can’t worry about it too much, because then you’ll be timid. I’ve had my share of kicks to the face and the hands, but it’s part of the position.”
Now, she is thriving.
“I get yelled at for being too nice,” Schnetzler said. “I think it comes along. The longer you play, the more you know you have to be tough. Whatever you have to do to get to the ball, you need to do.”