When the No. 8 Michigan field hockey team records its next victory, junior goalkeeper Beth Riley will pick up her 36th career victory and pass Katie Oaks to become the all-time winningest goalie in the program’s history. Fittingly, the squad’s next chance to secure the record for Riley is in Columbus against its most despised rival – the Ohio State Buckeyes.
“It is a big game, and we are always excited to play them,” Riley said.
In amassing her current tally of 35 wins, Riley has utilized both her skills in the net and her ability to work within the team structure.
In high school, she was a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, where she excelled at the cello. Though it may be hard to imagine the link between playing cello and goalie, Riley knows it’s there.
“You have to remain calm when you play classical music, and you also have to remain calm when you are in high-pressure situations in goal,” Riley said.
The net-minder also understands that just as it takes every instrument in the orchestra to make a song sound satisfactory, it takes every player on the field to make a team successful.
“Each game is about the whole team,” Riley said. “It’s not about who’s in goal or who scores the goals. It is about what happened in the 70 minutes that you play on the field. For a team to win, you have to have people scoring goals and people playing great defense. So it relies on all the other people in front of me.”
Riley remains modest about her achievements and also understands that others have been instrumental to her success.
“It is humbling to know that I am compared to older girls like Katie Oaks,” Riley said. “It’s quite an honor. My freshman year, I stepped onto a team that had Stephanie Johnson, Kristi Gannon and April Fronzoni – all those big names – and I was just a little freshman. I learned a great deal from them.”
Riley’s style of leadership fits with her perspective on her achievements.
“Beth is a quiet leader, as she is not nearly as verbose as her predecessors,” Michigan coach Nancy Cox said.
But all of the evidence that Riley is a soft-spoken classical music lover is thrown into question when considering her nickname. Teammates refer to Riley as “B-Rabbit,” a reference to Eminem’s character in the film “8 Mile.” While it may surprise some that a cellist’s moniker would be linked to the foulmouthed freestylist, Riley’s presence and ability make her a force similar to that of Marshall Mathers on the mic.
In her 46 games for the Wolverines, Riley has a miniscule 1.20 goals-against average and has made a total of 170 saves in net.
With these sorts of numbers, Riley leads loudly. Her team always knows it has a proven anchor behind it.
Though Riley is always quick to give her teammates credit for her stellar record, her coaches and teammates know that her work in net should not be overlooked just because of her quiet nature.
“She is a very humble, hardworking young woman, and I think it’s a great testimony to her character considering where she was when she started with us and where she is now,” Cox said.