Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - Rachael Estopare and Lainey Burdett have extremely large gloves to fill. After all Estopare ( a redshirt freshman) and Burdett (a true freshman) are both vying for the position of starting goalkeeper for Tony Amato's Arizona Wildcats. Given who they're replacing, it's not the most enviable of tasks.
When the dust cleared on 2014 and her collegiate career had come to an end, Wildcat senior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman had started in sixty straight matches dating back to 2012. Kaufman had recorded sixteen shutouts in her time at Arizona, good enough for second best in program history. That is the standard by which Arizona goalkeeping is now judged and for two newbies it can be a little daunting.
"Her grind and work ethic," said Estopare when asked what she had taken away from watching Kaufman for last season. "She always had the team's back."
One season later, Estopare is hoping to carry on the tradition. To do so would mean jumping straight into the fire.
"I feel like I've gotten a lot better as a goalkeeper overall. More confidence on the field."
Which, as it happens, is almost exactly how Burdett feels about her own game. Burdett enrolled in the spring after graduating high school early, giving her more time to get to know the ins and outs of the program, a move that helped her grow more comfortable in the system.
"I was able to see how the team worked," said Burdett. "Hopefully that is able to help me in the end this season make an impact."
While they share the same position as well as some similar characteristics there defining differences between the two of them.
"Rachael definitely can manage games," said goalkeeper coach Paul Nagy. "She's composed and does a great job of organizing in front of her."
"Lainey can make some explosive saves," said Nagy. "She is working on consistency. Picking out that save every time."
In order for the team to be in sync, trust in the goalkeeper is of the utmost importance. With Kaufman, there was never any doubt about her leadership. With Estopare and Burdett still young in their careers one would think that building trust may take some time. Not so, says one of their teammates.
"When they first start out, they're freshman," said junior midfielder Lexe Selman, "but when you don't notice the age difference at all. They're amazing keepers."
As of Tuesday there was no decision as to which one will start when Arizona opens the season against Abilene Christian but to hear Nagy say it, both are going to want to be ready.
"They're both freshman driving each other to be better each day," Nagy said. "It's a great tandem. It's a great battering unit with the two of them."
Arizona hosts Abilene Christian Friday night at 7:00pm, For more game info click here: http://bit.ly/1TXBVTz