One of the best parts about Erin Lesebergs job as goalkeeper for the Kamiakin girls soccer team is she often has the best seat in the house.
And since the Braves dont allow too many teams past a top-notch defensive third Kamiakin has allowed just six goals in 12 games Leseberg gets a good look at an offense at the top of its game.
Some games, you dont even touch the ball. Youre just standing back there waiting for something to happen, Leseberg said. Its so awesome watching (the offense). They all work together, like Rilee (Castilla) and Ellie (Heiden) up there with the wings and defensive midfielders. Alicia (Nguyen) is always sending beautiful lob balls up to Ellie.
They appreciate her, too. Leseburg, a sophomore who spent last year on junior varsity splitting time between goalkeeper and wing, leads all Mid-Columbia Conference goalkeepers with just 0.60 goals per game in 802 minutes.
The strangest part about Lesebergs success in goal is that she was hoping to earn her stripes on varsity by playing in the field, where she has spent much of her playing career through club and recreational leagues. But after the graduation of all-MCC keeper Sydnee Grant and an injury to junior Kelci Young, the Braves needed someone to step up into the role of starter.
I called her in the summer, and she said she was done playing goalkeeper. I asked if she would consider playing keeper until Kelci gets rolling for us. She said, Ill think about it, Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson said. She called me back four days later and said, I think Ill try it.
One of Eriksons dilemmas is what to do when Young returns. With two talented goalies, she can only play one at a time. One possible solution could be a best-case scenario for Leseberg.
I told her shed get an opportunity to try out on the field. Shes actually very fast, and thats what she wanted to do, Erikson said.
Leseberg would get a chance to join the party up front, and Young could get up to speed in goal just in time for the 3A sub-regional playoffs beginning Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Until Young gets her chance, shell continue supporting Leseberg as best she can. Shes been devoting her time to strengthening her torn ACL and working with Kamiakin goalie coach Theresa Hagler to getting Leseberg and JV keeper Rachel McClure up to speed.
I felt like my responsibility was to help them get better, said Young, who practiced with the team Monday and could see a return soon. Im impressed with how (Erin) is dealing with pressure. She keeps herself calm most of the time and made a lot of progress with her technique.
Hagler, who played keeper at Richland from 1989-92 and at Whitworth from 1992-96, said Lesebergs athletic ability sets her apart from most other goalies.
Shes naturally gifted. She moves like an athlete and trains like an athlete. Shes got a natural ability to jump and get off the ground quickly, Hagler said.
Other keepers might tower over the diminutive Leseberg, but her vertical leap gives her another advantage when going for balls in the air.
Theresa always calls me the Easter bunny, because whenever we do jumping exercises, Im always jumping really high, said Leseberg, who comes from an athletic family. Girls who are bigger than me are kind of intimidating. Before this, I didnt have any goalie training at all, but Ive gotten a lot better since my freshman year.
She quickly gained the approval of an experienced defensive front consisting of Sarah Burns, Heather Donais, Rachel Ensign and Lauren McKinney.
The whole defensive unit took her under our wing. Its so important to have your teams backing, said McKinney, a Braves co-captain along with Heiden and Brianna Turley. I dont think anybody had any doubt in her. Thats her spot. Shes going to own it.
McKinney said Lesebergs experience in the field also helps her in goal.
She can get to balls everywhere, she said. We try to play it to her on the ground a lot, because shes able to look and find those passes, which is a good option.
Eriksons best option, once Young returns, might be finding a way to keep Leseberg on the field.