Being a goalkeeper is one of the most high-pressure jobs in sports. Nothing between the player and the net – just a pair of gloves between the player and a soccer ball hurtling forward, often at upwards of 50 miles an hour. An intimidating task, to say the least.
Not so for Hillary Beall on Friday.
The junior goaltender was steady as a rock between the posts Friday, anchoring the Michigan women’s soccer team on its way to a 2-1 defeat of No. 13 Washington State. The win over the Cougars marks the Wolverines’ first against a ranked opponent this season, an encouraging sign as the team heads into Big Ten play Thursday.
“Hillary really just came up big for us,” Michigan coach Jennifer Klein said. “She’s been solid all throughout the season, and she’s been coming up with some big saves.
“I think it all comes down to her training and her experience as a goalkeeper, and she’s done a great job for us more than anything.”
The Wolverines got off to a quick start, scoring twice in the first four minutes. The first goal came off the foot of junior midfielder Sarah Stratigakis, who lifted the ball over the head of Washington State goalkeeper Ella Dederick in the second minute to put Michigan on the board.
The Wolverines were quick to strike again. In the 4th minute, sophomore midfielder Meredith Haakenson found the goal on a cross from junior midfielder Nicki Hernandez, faking left to beat Dederick before putting the ball in the net, extending Michigan’s lead to 2-0.
“We just had great energy to start the game,” Klein said. “Really, it was just being prepared for their directness and how they move the ball.”
The match was fairly evenly-paced throughout. Though the Wolverines finished the game on top, the Cougars had more shots, notching 12 on the match to Michigan’s eight. Washington State continued to threaten late into the game, finally beating Beall in the 71st minute on a header just past her outstretched fingertips to get on the board.
The Wolverines held steady, though, with Beall lights out in the net for the rest of the night. She recorded 12 saves on the match, a career best for the junior, a native of Laguna Beach, Calif.
The hours-long trip to Pullman, Wash. for the game – and the three-hour time difference from Ann Arbor – proved to be no problem for Michigan, which benefited greatly from its training leading up to the game.
“I thought we did a great job of finishing the game strong and finding a way to get a result on the road against a very dangerous and difficult opponent,” Klein said. “I thought the team did a great job handling the travel. I don’t think it really affected us.”
It certainly didn’t affect Beall.