Belen High School
Valencia High School
Los Lunas High School
If quarterback is the most important position in all of sports then what is the loneliest? The goal keeper in soccer would get plenty of votes.
Who else wears a different colored jersey than their teammates, often stands alone and is there for everyone to see when a miscue is made?
With high school soccer coaches analyzing their just completed seasons and the World Cup ready to kickoff, it might be a good time to hear more about this pressure-packed post.
The three starting goalies on the Valencia County girls’ high school teams all have different experience levels and different perspectives.
Valencia High School senior Kylee Ashley-Kurtz averaged 12 saves a game for the Jaguars. She has always played keeper.
“I like the pressure. You get control,” Ashley-Kurtz said.
Los Lunas High School junior Haylee Driscoll, who had 11 shutouts for the Tigers, migrated to goalie because of the intensity.
“Whenever a shot is taken, the crowd goes ‘Ohhhhh,’” in anticipation of a goal Driscoll said. “But I like it whenever I make a save. They go, ‘Ahhhhh,’” in disappointment.
The spotlight is cool, too.
“I perform well under pressure. It’s easy to shine out and I like shining out,” Driscoll said.
Down the interstate, a different viewpoint at Belen High School, where shy sophomore Jaelynn Bob was new to the position. Coach Ernest Gonzales encouraged Bob to come out for the team after seeing her footwork and good hands on the basketball court.
“I was nervous and excited at the same time,” Bob said about when she was approached by Gonzales. She found “gaining confidence, the mental part,” most difficult.
That self-belief seems to be a key.
“Be confident, don’t second guess yourself,” said the Jaguars’ Ashley-Kurtz.
Confidence is not a problem for Driscoll of the Tigers.
“I can eat up any ball, and I’m not scared of anything.”
When watching Bob, you can’t help but notice she is often grinning. No matter the situation.
“I try not to think about it,” Bob said of the pressure. “Just keep a smile on.”
And when there isn’t much action?
“When the ball is on the other side, it gets very lonely,” Bob said. “I like it on the other side.”
All three are always trying to learn, even during a game.
The Tigers’ Driscoll will watch her counterpart in action to pick-up pointers. She says she wants to improve her distribution, “where to play the ball, when to play it.”
With her high school career ending, Valencia’s Ashley-Kurtz can reflect on life in the spotlight.
“Sometimes I’ll lose the ball and say, ‘I shouldn’t be out here, but I snap out of it. You need me. I’m good here.”
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.