Being a goalie means being on the wrong end of a coin flip. In order for a goalkeeper to do her job, the other team has to come very close to scoring. Forwards miss plenty of shots each year, but a goalkeeper's miss gets put on the scoreboard.
"It's either a spectacular play, or you fail and let a goal go in," BYU goalkeeper Erica Owens said. "Usually, I prefer to put on a good show as opposed to letting them score."
Owens helped lead the BYU women's soccer team to a school-record No. 2 national ranking and a spot in the Elite Eight last season. The Cougars allowed 13 goals in 24 games last season thanks to Owens, an experienced backline and a team committed to a solid defensive effort.
BYU's 2012 competition would have had to play almost 95 games or 8,568 minutes extra against the Cougars to score as many goals as BYU's offense did in 24 games. Owens was fifth in the nation in goals against average, but she also played nearly eight games more than any other keeper in the top five.
Before last season, Owens had only played 25 minutes during her freshman season three years earlier and had never started a game. She sat because of injury and McKinzie Olson in her first three years as a Cougar. She trained and watched and prepared for last season. The only thing left for Owens was to do it in a game, which isn't always a given.
"I think it's always a question," BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood said. "We knew what Erica was capable of, but as far as on South Field, in front of a big crowd, you never know how someone is going to react to that.
"She proved from the very first time on the field she had the mental capacity and mental toughness to do what keepers do, which is sometimes not touch a ball for 30 minutes then have to make one big save that could be the difference in the game."
Owens was a bit more elated to find she was the keeper her teammates and coaches thought she was.
"It was one of the most fulfilling feelings I've ever had," Owens said. "First stepping on the field was unbelievable. It felt like I was in a movie almost, because of how exciting it was and the atmosphere of it."
Owens had not only worked on positioning and footwork but had a presence on the field and off. Before ever starting a game, her teammates voted her a captain for the 2012 season along with senior defender Cami Jensen.
"(Erica) has all those great qualities of a leader," Rockwood said. "She had earned the respect of her teammates through the three years that she trained and worked hard. Although she didn't play, her team knew what she was capable of, seeing it on a day-to-day basis."
Owens had also honed her skills as someone who can influence the game, even without touching the ball.
"Her presence on the field is felt by everybody, and that's what is so important about a keeper - their presence," Rockwood said. "Our opponents, just based on Erica's presence, know she's going to be able to save more shots."
Even in that sense she isn't the normal goalkeeper.
"Most goalies are normally pretty intense," Owens said. "But I like to have more fun out there than I feel most goalkeepers will show, because after three years of waiting to get out there, there's no way I could not have fun. It's just a blast."
While her 5-foot-11 frame can be imposing between the ball and the goal, Owens has the opposite effect on her teammates.
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