North Texas Daily

Injury puts spotlight on backup keeper

Injury puts spotlight on backup keeper

Injury puts spotlight on backup keeper
September 11
22:54 2013

John Lugo / Staff Writer

Junior goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine’s hopes of playing with the team well into the conference tournament this year ended when she suffered season-ending tears of her  anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and lateral meniscus during a match against Virginia Tech University on Sept. 1.

The responsibility of goalkeeper shifts to sophomore Haley Riley, who posted two shutouts against Sam Houston State Univesity and Texas Christian University in her first two starts last weekend. Riley was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week for her efforts in the unexpected opportunity.

“Your mindset has to change a little bit going from backup to starter, but I’ve been ready this whole season knowing that if something were to happen that I need to step up,” Riley said. “They were all really supportive and gave me a lot of encouragement. That’s really all that I needed.”

The defense has gotten more attention this season with senior defender Kelsey Hodges named as a Conference USA “Player to Watch” this season. While Riley’s award put her in the spotlight, she credits the entire defense for her success.

“It took me by surprise for sure, but it’s awesome,” Riley said. “It’s a blessing to play behind the defense that I have.”

Since the news broke of Kerestine’s injury, the team has been giving her words of motivation to help her as she prepares for surgery and the rehabilitation process. Although she is not expected to perform in any activity on the field at least until the spring, Kerestine hasn’t let the injury ruin her mindset.

“It’s been a lot easier because of my support system I have,” Kerestine said. “My team has been awesome about it. I still have my times where I am upset but I’ve finally accepted it.”

Head coach John Hedlund said that he thinks the team, including Jackie, has been dealing with the loss of Kerestine better than he has. Losing his goalkeeper of the previous two seasons took a toll on him.

“I consider her one of the best goalkeepers in the nation, so as a coach, when you lose that level of a player, it becomes pretty frustrating,” Hedlund said. “Now in saying that, Haley has really stepped up big for us. She’s been patient waiting for her time and she took full advantage of it over the weekend.”

Hedlund placed the “hardest worker” label on Riley and said her work ethic is the main reason why the team, though disappointed about losing Kerestine, is still optimistic knowing Riley will fill in.

“It was easy for them to accept her being in there just because they have a lot of respect on how hard she works,” Hedlund said. “She’s very intense and it feeds off the other players on the team.”

Hedlund described the switch from Kerestine to Riley as two different playing techniques. While Kerestine uses her 6-foot-1-inch frame and physical play, Riley relies more on quick hands and lateral movement.

Her teammates had to quickly adjust to the new style of play, but Hodges said the transition period has gone well.

“It’s different, but in a good way. Haley communicates as much as Jackie does,” Hodges said. “It works really well already.”

Kerestine has shown constant support for Riley, telling her to be confident, strong and to show the opponents who’s in charge on the field. She expected the type of success Riley has had so far.

“I’m honestly not surprised, I knew she had it in her,” Kerestine said. “It’s nice that she gets the recognition that she deserves.”

Though Kerestine’s absence is a major loss for the team, the team hasn’t lowered expectations with Riley at the helm.

“We’re letting her know we’re all behind her and we’re confident in her,” Hodges said. “Just because she was a backup, [that] doesn’t mean anything. She’s our starter now.”

Kerestine hopes to return at the start of next season in August 2014.

Feature photo courtesy of Rick Yeattes 

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