The GK crew
Trio of goalkeepers put their heads together to defend the Chippewa goal
They refer to themselves as the ‘GK Crew’ and spend more time together than anyone else on Central Michigan’s soccer team.
Made up of junior Maddy Bunnell, senior Kristen Knutson and freshman Zoie Reed, the Chippewa goalkeeper crew is almost inseparable. Brought together by a common goal their position, they have been through a lot through this season’s 15 games.
“It’s definitely a practice where if one of us makes a save, we feel like we all made that awesome save,” Bunnell said. “We like to see each other succeed.”
Bunnell, hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, is the longest-tenured goalie on the roster. She has two starts and three appearances in 2015, making 22 saves with a .815 save percentage and was a member of the Academic All-Mid-American Conference team last year.
Knutson is a native of Eagan, Minnesota and is in her second season as a Chippewa after transferring from the University of Minnesota. She said herself along with Bunnell and Reed, are a very tight-knit group.
“I think we find that the three of us understand each other better than anybody else on the team understands us,” Knutson said. “We’re always together and experiencing the same things whereas our other teammates are experiencing different things. They run a lot, but we hit the ground a lot.”
Together in practice, in games and on the road, the trio has learned a lot about one another in their time as goalies. This is especially the case with Reed, the youngest of the three players.
Reed, a native of Woodbridge, Connecticut, has made a majority of the starts for CMU this season. Starting in 12 games, she is 5-6-1 with six shutouts and is fourth in the MAC with an .814 save percentage.
“I’ve kind of learned to slow down and be patient,” Reed said. “As a freshman on the the team, it’s a little awkward and weird to come into a different situation not knowing what to do. It’s kind of nice coming into a crew that really understands the position and knows you better than the field players.”Bunnell, Knutson and Reed are primarily instructed by Assistant Head Coach and Director of External Affairs Joe Nemzer. A man with experience at the position, Nemzer was the starting goalkeeper collegiately for Penn State Abington.
Nemzer is also the goalkeeper coach for the United States Soccer Training Centers. He is involved in the Olympic Development Program, working as the goalkeeper coach for Region II and as a staff coach for the state of Michigan.
“Every goalkeeper, no matter where you are or what level you play at, every goalkeeper brings something different to the position,” Nemzer said.
Nemzer said there are clear differences between CMU’s top three goalies.
“Maddy is someone who is an elite shot-stopper, meaning she has a knack for getting herself into position for any ball that’s hit inside 15 yards,” Nemzer said. “Her athleticism across the goal is really good. Kristen’s a lot more methodical — very good with her feet. She can play the ball out; she understands how to move around the box and how to get people involved in possession.”
Nemzer said Reed's athleticism is what makes her so strong as a true freshman.
“She’s someone who has amazing handling ability — any ball that’s hit inside her window, she handles very clean,” he said. “She does all the little things pretty well.”
Bunnell and Knutson, the two upperclassmen goalies, have done a superb job in helping the younger Reed learn the ropes of what it takes to be a goalkeeper at the collegiate level, Nemzer said.
“Zoie’s learning curve with the two has been massive. I think Kristen and Maddy have done a really good job of pulling her along in the way of how we try to go about things. They’ve both been through the ringer in that way early on in their careers here — they know what the expectation is and how to go about certain things,” Nemzer said.
Head Coach Peter McGahey is also impressed with the output CMU’s goalkeepers have had since the onset of the season back in August.
He commended his fellow coach for his work with the goalkeeping trio as well as his time put in during the offseason to recruit new, talented goalies to the program.
“We’re very fortunate to have a really good talent level in our goalkeeping room,” McGahey said. “I think Joe (Nemzer) does a really good job from a recruiting aspect in terms of identifying them, training them and communicating with them. They’re a very hard-working group.”Players agree there is a sense of mutual respect between Nemzer and his goalkeepers. They draw as much, if not more, influence from him as they do from each other.
“He’s like a cool dad to us,” Knutson said. “We make jokes with him but, at the same time, he’s the first person to get down on us and tell us when we need to focus more.”
While only one of them can contribute to success on the field in any given match, it’s the small wins during the week that add up.
“At the end of the day, our small victories equate to the team’s victories on the field,” Bunnell said.