Making the transition from high school to college athletics is never an easy task. Even more daunting is the prospect of being called upon to start as the head net-minder in one’s first collegiate game.
Freshman Kara Williams has done all of this, and with the support of teammates and coaches alike, she has made quite an impression on the women’s soccer team.
“When you have somebody back in the net that you feel comfortable with, and confident with, the players in front of her can do things differently,” coach David Jones said. “And they understand that somebody like that is going to make the saves she is supposed to make.”
Williams ranks fourth in the Atlantic Ten Conference in saves with 67 and fifth in goals against average at 1.04. She earned A-10 Rookie of the Week honors earlier this season.
Williams grew up in Stratford, Conn., where she led her high school team to consecutive Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference semifinals. She also guided that same team to three state quarterfinals. This experience has contributed to the success she is currently sharing with the Owls.
“At first it was a little overwhelming,” Williams said. “But once I was here with the team and got comfortable playing with them and just hanging around with the team, it was a lot easier to step in and play.”
There may have been first game jitters, but Williams showed no signs of them on Aug. 31 at Northern Arizona. She recorded nine saves in a scoreless tie that went into double overtime and gave Williams the first shutout of her career.
“I was extremely nervous, especially because I was halfway across the country, away from my family,” Williams said. “But I just tried to really focus in on the ball. If you worry about the ball and nothing else, then the job gets done. And that’s what I’ve always done in the past.”
One element that has made this adjustment smoother has been the guidance of junior goaltender Tiffany Kasunich.
“Tiff’s a great motivator,” Williams said. “Everyday she pushes me to be better. When I come off [the field] the first person I ask is Tiff. She can relate directly to me and she knows exactly what I’m going through because she’s gone through it, and her experience is so much help.”
The feeling is mutual from Kasunich, who pushes her younger counterpart to perform to the best of her ability.
“One of the best things about practice is that we can equally compete with each other,” Kasunich said. “And I think that she becomes a better keeper, I become a better keeper and we learn from each other.”
The goaltender camaraderie has led to a steady defensive start for the Owls, who have only allowed 18 goals in 14 games this season. Williams has posted three shutouts, the latest occurring on Sept. 21 at Saint Peter’s.
Temple stands at 5-6-3, and has five more conference games remaining. Williams’ successful freshman campaign is winding down, but she continues to learn more everyday from teammates and coaches.
“Once you get over your nerves, you get comfortable with your team,” Kasunich said. “You start playing your game and that’s all it takes and she’s done a really good job doing that.”
“She has all the natural ability and the skills to play at a high level,” Jones said. “I think she’s just had times when she has felt a little unsure of herself. As each game goes on, and she’s kept us in some big games, I think she gets that confidence and experience. And that’s what it’s about as a young player.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.