The women’s soccer team has amassed an NCAA-leading 11 shutouts in just 14 matches this season, outscoring opponents 22-3 en route to a sterling 9-3-2 record. The Huskies have not allowed a goal since their 1-0 loss at Dartmouth on Sept. 19 and will vie for their sixth consecutive shutout victory on Saturday, when they face Hofstra in Hempstead, New York. We asked goalkeeper Paige Burnett, who has allowed just one goal in the past 850 minutes of play, to explain the secret behind the red and black’s number-defying success.
You started 61 games in your first three seasons as Northeastern’s goalkeeper, posting a 1.49 goals against average and a .759 save percentage. In 14 starts this season, you’ve posted a .21 goals against average and an .897 save percentage. To what do you attribute the marked improvement?
A lot of the credit goes to the experience of our back line, but the team as a whole has defended well. We’re not giving up a lot of opportunities, and we’ve bought into the system, defending the full length of the field beginning with our front line players. They have prevented balls from making it to our back line players, who have prevented balls from making it to me. From a personal perspective, I’ve spent the past two summers playing with the Boston Breakers College Academy team, which has given me a lot of experience and improved my confidence.
You’ve faced 88 shots this season, an average of only six per game. How do you stay focused when the majority of the play is taking place in your opponent’s zone?
The back line has made my job boring at times, but that’s a good thing. I stay focused by communicating with my teammates nonstop, encouraging them and pointing out organizational problems so trouble in the first part of the game doesn’t lead to scoring chances or goals later on.
Last season’s team started poorly but finished strong, winning the Colonial Athletic Association title and reaching the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history. What are the keys to harnessing this team’s talent and making an even deeper playoff run?
We need to stay focused, remain committed, and strike a good balance between being confident and respecting our opponents. As long as we find that balance, we can go as far as we want to go. We set goals every year, and this season’s hope is to win the conference and advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.