Hard work pays dividends for Lions keeper

by Elizabeth Hartel / Beacon Correspondent • October 8, 2014

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Sophomore Melanie Escobar was the NEWMAC women's defensive player of the week last week.
Sophomore Melanie Escobar was the NEWMAC women's defensive player of the week last week.

Melanie Escobar isn’t the Emerson women’s soccer team’s full time goalie, but that isn’t stopping the sophomore from racking up the conference awards.

Escobar has held opponents scoreless in two of her four starts and was recently named the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletics Conference women’s soccer defensive player of the week at the end of September.

Escobar said she was surprised by the honor, but happy and humbled by it - especially as a sophomore and a goalkeeper. She said that being honored conference-wide as only a second-year student is an unusual honor.

The journalism major posted a .833 save percentage and has recorded three wins as starter.

Escobar said she feels people don’t often recognize the big role that goalkeepers play.

“The goalies are the protectors of the field,” said Escobar.

She credited much of her success as a player and a goalkeeper to her team and her coaches, who she said offer great support on and off the field.

“It’s all about communication,” said Escobar. “As long as I can talk to them, it helps. They’re the reason I have my shutouts right now. [It helps when] I get a lot of respect and support from them.”

Junior defender Haley Moser highlighted the importance of good team chemistry.

“Having Mel behind me [makes me] very confident in passing back to her, which is an important quality and trust that needs to happen between a goalie and her defenders,” said Moser. “I also believe Mel is a very vocal goalie, which is also an important quality, because it helps keep not only the defenders, but the team as a whole connected and marked to their player.”

Moser has started all 11 games for the Lions this year.

“Overall I feel extremely comfortable and more confident in my abilities because I know [Escobar] will communicate with me on the field,” she said.

Escobar attributed her coach Colin Connolly for helping her maintain a high save percentage.

“He gives me drills and prepares me really well,” said Escobar of the assistant coach.

As a freshman, Escobar did not practice with a special goalkeeping coach, and she said having Connolly around has really helped her improve her game. 

Despite her successes as a goalkeeper, Escobar did not always play a defensive position. She started her soccer career at age five at the striker position, but soon moved her talents to the defensive part of the game in middle school, where she initially took up goalkeeping.

Coach David Suvak said Escobar’s extensive career on the field has made her a very smart player. “[She is] obviously well-trained,” said Suvak. “Mel is a very confident goalkeeper for our team and I’m very proud of her.”

He also also noted Escobar’s honor of being named NEWMAC women’s soccer defensive player of the week as a major accomplishment for a sophomore. 

“Let’s say every team plays two matches per week. In those two matches per week, one player gets selected [for the award]. I would say it’s a very competitive award to earn,” Suvak said.  “She responds to coaching criticism and direction extremely well. [She is a] very coachable player."  

Suvak said he looks forward to seeing where the rest of the season will take Escobar and the Lions. He said October is full of in-conference games and hopes the team will be able to earn a spot in the NEWMAC championship. 

“She can hold up against [NEWMAC] teams,” said Suvak of Escobar, adding he looks forward to working with her throughout the remainder of the season and for her years to come at Emerson. “She is a natural leader on the team.”