On Sept. 7, 2012, the Owls shutout the Iona Gaels behind a “super nervous” freshman goalkeeper making her first career start. A little more than a year later, that same player has become the face of the program.
Sophomore goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff has quickly emerged as Temple’s most recognized player, leading one of the nation’s best defenses and making history along the way.
“I’m trying to be more of a leader for our program,” Kerkhoff said. “The biggest thing for me is confidence and it has been reflecting in my play. I’m a lot more confident and when I’m confident, it makes every player in front of me confident.”
Since replacing former Temple goalkeeper Tara Murphy in 2012, Kerkhoff has ranked among the best in the nation in save percentage, shots allowed, and shutouts. Kerkhoff said her progression as a player has stemmed from a boost in confidence since her rookie year.
“My decision making has gotten better,” Kerkhoff said. “My distribution has gotten better. Those are the two biggest things for me. Depending on how confident you are is how good those skills will be.”
Starting nine games, Kerkhoff ended her freshman year as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie team. Kerkhoff followed her freshman year accolades by earning recognition by the American Athletic Conference’s weekly honor roll twice in the first four weeks of her sophomore campaign.
“I’m very fortunate and I’m so grateful to even be recognized,” Kerkhoff said. “I think my defense has a lot to do with it. They keep the ball out of our half and they make me more successful. You’re only as good as your teammates. I really have them to thank for it.”
In addition to her technical improvements between the bars, Kerkhoff has also established herself as a vocal leader for Temple on and off the field.
“The goalkeeper sees everything,” Kerkhoff said. “I see everyone in front of me and I see what they can’t see, so it’s my responsibility to tell them what’s behind them. Even off the field, I try to be a vocal presence. I’m a sophomore but most of our team is sophomores so we have to act older than we are. I want people to know they can come talk to me and that I’ll be there for them.”
Led by Kerkhoff, the Owls’ defense has been a big reason for Temple’s current winning record, averaging single digit shots allowed this season. The defense has recorded six shutouts in 2013.
Kerkhoff’s career shutout total has reached 10, which brings her current total brings her within striking range of the program record for career shutouts (12). Though shutouts are labeled as an individual statistic for goalkeepers, Kerkhoff views it as a collective achievement.
“Obviously, that would be awesome [to break the shutout record],” Kerkhoff said. “That’s always a goal you want to strive for. Our goal this year is to make a name for ourselves. We want people to think Temple soccer is the real deal. [The record] would put us on the map. The defense has a huge part of the shutout record. So in a way, it’s a team goal.”
As the only current player to earn multiple honors for the Owls, Kerkhoff will likely headline future opponents’ scouting reports, becoming the main target for conference teams who know little about the Temple roster.
With conference play beginning against the Houston Cougars at Ambler Sports Complex on Thursday night, Kerkhoff is confident that the team, and herself, will make a strong impression.
“I think pressure is a big part of our game,” Kerkhoff said. “It’s something you have to get used to. It’s something I had to get used to pretty early in my career. I think it’s just part of the game. I think I’m ready for that.”
Brien Edwards can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @BErick1123.