Hillary Beall came to Ann Arbor typifying what it means to be a highly-touted prospect. The No. 1 goalkeeper in the class of 2017 according to Top Drawer Soccer, Beall was expected to become an elite keeper for the Wolverines. After all, the shot-stopper was a five-star prospect and had already accumulated an impressive junior international resume as an 18-year-old.
When prospects come with the kind of laundry list of accolades that Beall did, people view them as a sure thing. Consequently, everyone hears the stories of uber-talented busts: four- and five-star prospects that plateau, that get beat out by competition, that can’t shake the injury bug. Blue-chip prospects don’t always pan out.
Hillary Beall did.
After making a solid impression as a freshman and an injury-shortened sophomore year, Beall is proving in her junior year exactly why she earned that high ranking.
“She’s been great,” said coach Jennifer Klein. “I mean she’s been really solid for us. I think she’s done a great job as far as, you know, being a great goalkeeper and keeping the ball out of the back of the net and helping in our defensive organization.”
This season, Beall has started all 11 games and given up just six goals. This while putting up as many clean sheets — five — as the team recorded last season and not allowing more than one goal in any game.
“You can tell that she’s continuing to grow and mature,” Klein said.
Beall’s numbers prove her coach correct as she has made an impressive leap in save percentage from .756 in 2018 to .854 in 2019, along with a significant goals against average drop from 1.06 to .52.
This impressive improvement on already solid numbers begs the question: What changed?
“I went home,” Beall said. “I played a lot, worked a lot on my confidence to make sure that every game I’m locked in and here for the back line. I trained a lot during the summer.”
As she continues to put on great performance after great performance, including a four-save, 110-minute clean sheet in Sunday’s 0-0 draw against Indiana, Beall’s work continues to show itself. The improvements she sought to make are plainly visible, as Klein recognized.
“The big thing is just the confidence that she has,” Klein said. “She’s making really good saves, she’s keeping us in good games. She’s just doing a good job all-around.”
Beall’s play has propelled Michigan to an 8-2-1 record and its first coaches poll votes since 2017, even with the offense managing to score more than two goals only once thus far.
With the offense scoring 1.78 goals per game through September 26th, a number that ranks 101st in the NCAA, Beall’s exceptional play has been all the more important. She has stolen game after game for Michigan.
If the expectations for a five-star prospect are to be the team’s X-factor, it’s pretty safe to say Beall has reached that level. Beall is the lynchpin of her team, and the Wolverines’ aspirations to end a 20 year Big Ten title drought draw life largely from her skill as a backstop.