Some things just turn out right.

Michigan goalkeeper Beth Riley did not have high hopes for her
first field hockey practice. The then-eighth grader simply tagged
along with some friends. When the coach looked at the girls
expectantly, asking, “So, who wants to be the goalkeeper this
year?” Riley kept her mouth shut.

Then, she noticed something. Her friends were all pointing at
her. She good-naturedly took her position in the box, and from that
moment on, it was clear: The goal was the place for Riley.

“I’ve loved it ever since,” she said.

It’s not difficult to see why Riley, a Pennsylvania native,
would enjoy the sport so much. Since August, when the freshman
began her athletic career at the University, she has seen action in
11 games, and has 10 starts. This weekend, she blocked an
impressive six shots, and has not been scored on in her last 266:29
minutes of play. She is also this week’s Big Ten Defensive Player
of the Week.

Although the goal can be a stressful place to be, the freshman
thrives on the pressure.

“I like having to react to the shot,” Riley said. “I like being
back there for my team and being able to encourage everyone.”

Oddly enough, Riley was not planning on receiving such a huge
amount of playing time when she arrived in Ann Arbor.

“I came in here, and my goal for the season was to improve
myself,” she said. “I wanted to be the best goalkeeper I could be,
and work on some basic skills.”

One person who helped Riley along was Michigan’s other goalie,
fourth-year junior Molly Maloney. Maloney took the freshman under
her wing, and the pair have since developed a symbiotic
relationship based on constructive criticism and mutual
respect.

“Every day, we have practice together, and we encourage each
other,” Riley said. “If I was missing a certain kind of shot, or
off my angle, she’d take me aside, and give me advice, which was
really helpful.

“And I would do the same for her.”

Apart from a focused attitude at practice, Riley utilizes more
abstract methods to prepare herself for games.

“I really like our team’s warm-up mix,” Riley said. “And I would
have to say that I like the fight song the best. That one really
gets me going.”

Another Michigan tradition that Riley finds inspiring is
attending football games at the Big House.

“It’s just awesome to see how many people support Michigan
athletics,” she said. “You see maize and blue everywhere, and it’s
just incredible.”

In regards to the somewhat smaller audience at field hockey
games, Riley believes that it is quality, not quantity, that is
important.

“Attendance has gotten better as the season has progressed,”
Riley said. “My family has traveled to several of my games in Ann
Arbor, and it’s great to see little kids come out, who are playing
field hockey in elementary school, to see us. My friends come and
cheer for me too.”

As for her future at Michigan, the standout, as usual, just
wants to get things done for her team.

“I would like to improve myself and better my team,” Riley said.
“We always shoot for a National Championship, but more
realistically, I want to be a better goalkeeper.”

 

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