SOCCER : Filling the void

Trio of keepers vying for starting job


Battle Creek junior Grace Labrecque keeps a ball out of the goal from a shot taken by Western in their soccer game Friday afternoon at Bennett Field. Central Michigan Life | File Art

Redshirt sophomore Maddy Bunnell, sophomore Heather Laeufer and community college transfer student Tara Togami all hope to become the next starting goalkeeper for the Central Michigan University soccer team this fall.

The departure of Grace Labrecque left the position vacant for the trio of hopefuls.

Head coach Peter McGahey said the new keeper will not be required to emulate the qualities Labrecque brought to the team. Instead each player will need to find personalized ways to protect the goal.

“You’re never looking to replace. You’re looking to find somebody who is going to play in that position to the best of their strengths,” McGahey said. “Grace was such a unique talent. I would never want to say that any of the (current) goalkeepers are burdened with the responsibility of replacing Grace. They are just now going to grow into being their own person.”

Laeufer started four games last season with 23 saves and eight goals allowed. She lettered all four years for Pickerington High School and recorded 44 career shutouts.

Togami transferred from Fresno City College following an extremely successful 2013 season. She started 18 matches for Fresno City in the California Community College Athletic Association and allowed six goals.

Togami was ranked as the second leading statistical keeper by California College Soccer News and was named the 2013 Central Valley Conference Goalkeeper of the Year.

“Tara had a very successful junior college experience,” McGahey said. “She has seen a lot of shots and played in big games. I think she has really risen to the occasion and has adapted well.”

Nonetheless, Bunnell is regarded as the front-runner for the job by virtue of starting the preseason friendly against Pittsburgh Aug. 16, which CMU lost 1-0.

She said she felt privileged to be given that opportunity.

“I am honored to step in for Grace,” Bunnell said. “It is absolutely unfair to compare goalkeeper to goalkeeper because of playing styles. I am a very intense player and Grace brought a great level of composure.”

Bunnell is a Cincinnati-native and started one match last season making five saves and allowing two goals. During her time at Milford High School she set three school records including most shutouts and wins in a season.

“My teammates have been great working with me knowing when to be composed,” Bunnell said. “This summer I worked a lot on handling and distribution. That's the kind of keeper I'm going to be. I’m trying to hit my strengths.”

McGahey said he is confident Laeufer and Togami will see some time on the field.

“I have been impressed with all three,” McGahey said. “They have been prepared and they have trained hard. We are looking forward to seeing how they go.”

Last season, McGahey used three goalkeepers in a 20-match season with Lebreque starting 15 of those games.



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