Jordan Nash couldn’t believe her eyes.
When senior goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff went down with a broken right tibia against the University of Pennsylvania Sept. 4, the freshman jumped up from the bench to get a better view of her injured teammate.
As Kerkhoff was carted off the field, Nash realized the American Athletic Conference’s Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year was not going to return to her feet.
With 50 career minutes of playing time under her belt, the 5-foot-7 inch Brick, New Jersey native was inserted into the game in the 23rd minute, with the then-undefeated Owls trailing, 2-0, for the first time in five regular season games.
Nash held the Quakers scoreless while saving one shot attempt in a career-high 68 minutes of action, but the Owls fell 2-1.
“I just wanted to play my heart out for [Kerkhoff] in that game,” Nash said. “No matter what, she’s always supportive, so that helps a lot and makes it a lot easier to know that she’s behind me.”
Kerkhoff was ruled out for the year a few days after the injury and plans to apply for a medical redshirt after the season. She started 44 consecutive games in net for Temple from her sophomore to senior year before going down against Penn.
In 55 games, Kerkhoff has a career record of 24-25-3 with 17 shutouts, a 1.13 goals against average and 244 saves.
Nash, rated a three-star recruit by Top Drawer Soccer, will be looked upon to fill the void left by the senior. Nash was a four-year starter in goal for St. Rose High School in central New Jersey. She helped her team win two state sectional championships in 2012 and 2013, and she was named first team all-conference as a senior.
Coach Seamus O’Connor said the greatest similarity he’s noticed between Nash and Kerkhoff is their work ethics.
“She just wants to get better all the time,” O’Connor said of Nash. “Shauni was also addicted to training and had to be perfect at everything.”
One weakness Nash hopes to turn into a strength is communicating with her teammates on the field.
In her first start as an Owl Sept. 6, Nash seldom raised her voice in 94 minutes of play as Temple lost to Lehigh University, 3-2, in overtime.
“I was actually really nervous to start,” she said. “I don’t want to like disrespect anyone, so I was really nervous to say stuff, but [my teammates] all said, ‘Just yell at us. It’s your job. We’re here to listen to you. Don’t worry about it.’”
O’Connor said Kerkhoff, who’s extremely talkative on the pitch, had similar troubles when she was a freshman, and he’s confident Nash, who allowed one goal in 180 minutes this week, will find her voice too.
“It’s not something that comes comfortably for a freshman to yell at a senior when you don’t know how the senior is going to react,” O’Connor said. “But I think now she’s seeing that the girls want to win more than anything else.”
Tom Reifsnyder can be reached at email@example.com.