It’s never easy coming into a game to fill-in for a starting player. It’s even more difficult when you’re expected to fill the shoes of a key piece to an offensive rush, or a defensive line or any other critical element to a team’s success.
Now, just imagine that you’re a freshman goalkeeper on a collegiate soccer team and you’re called upon to step into those shoes and be the backbone of your team’s defensive end.
Once you fathom that, you can understand what Emersyn Pullan is experiencing playing for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team.
Pullan, one of nine freshmen to come to UMass to play for coach Ed Matz, has earned the spot of starting goalkeeper in place of the injured regular Emily Cota. The sophomore missed the past two games after suffering a head injury in a collision against Harvard.
Pullman saw her first start against Atlantic 10 powerhouse Charlotte, where she proved herself capable of holding her own in making four saves off of six shots on goal. Though the game ended in a 2-1 loss, Matz was pleased with her performance.
“She looked very good out there today,” Matz said after Friday’s game. “She looked comfortable and didn’t give up any rebounds. She played a great game.”
What proved to be a good performance on Friday progressed into a fantastic performance in net Sunday against another tough conference rival.
In the Minutewomen’s game against Saint Louis Sunday, Pullan pushed aside two saves in a fantastic effort to help lead the team to a tight 1-0 win. The win is Pullan’s first of the season, along with her first shutout, and she could not be more pleased with the results.
“It was a great game,” Pullan said. “It feels great to get my first collegiate win as a shutout against a strong A-10 opponent like Saint Louis. I was really nervous, but I just tried to take it one shot at a time. It shows that I can really compete, both individually and on a team level, against other tough teams.”
Although Pullan doesn’t know her fate with the team, she said she’ll be supportive of her coach no matter what she decides.
“I don’t know if I’ll start or not,” Pullan said. “That is up to coach to decide. If it is in the best interest of the team, then I will. If not, I won’t. I can only do what I’m asked to do, the best I can.”
Sporting an icepack around her left ankle after the game, Matz could only look at her and smile.
“She looks and plays like a badass,” he said.
Dave Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.