Emmaus goalie makes most of limited chances
For three seasons now, goalie Claire Nielsen has been one of the more lonely players on the Emmaus field hockey team.
Most games, she’s standing in front of the goal cage watching way down field as the team’s offense gives her a nice cushion. And on the occasions where she thinks she may get to make a big play, most times, the defense shuts it down before she even gets a chance.
“That happened a lot in my junior and senior years,” said Nielsen with a laugh after receiving another District 11 gold medal. “I had Chloe Tostevin back with me and she was a great sweeper and really helped me out.”
It’s those times though that opponents do challenge her that Nielsen has been able to show just how good she is. It’s only the lack of work that kept Nielsen from joining teammates Kacie Patton and Kayla Kisthardt on the EPC first-team all-star list. Even with limited opportunities to showcase her talent, Nielsen was named to the second-team of all-stars along with Annika Herbine and Riley Baughman. She has also shown enough that she’ll continue her field hockey career at West Chester University.
In this, her senior season, Nielsen has had a much less experienced defense in front of her and has taken the opportunity to become a leader, helping to develop that talent. She has helped the younger players along and between them and Nielsen, the team has allowed just four goals in 24 games this season.
Nielsen had to face a challenging Easton team three times this season, with two of those games being for either a conference or district championship. Both of the championship games turned out to be one-goal wins. For Nielsen though, she has approached it better than she believes she might have in her two previous seasons as a starter.
“I think it has gotten easier dealing with the nerves,” said Nielson. “I’ve learned to deal with the pressure a little better. You can’t let it get inside your head. You have to focus on what’s happening now and remind the defenders around you that ‘we’ve got this,’ and that’s what we did.”
When coach Sue Butz-Stavin arrived at the school last Wednesday to get her team together for the trip to Whitehall to face Easton in the district final, she found the seniors all in the training room getting themselves ready for the game. Nielsen was a part of that group.
“For three years, she’s been a starter,” said Butz-Stavin. “All of that experience has helped her. She also came in for Paige Garloff a few times as a freshman, but Paige also was the type to rise to the occasion and she won a state championship her senior year.”
With her nerves under control and a strong skill set, you get the feeling that this is all somewhat easy for Nielsen. Even if the strong defensive unit wasn’t in front of her, odds are the team would still be in good shape. Of course, when asked if she would prefer to have a heavier work load and have more shots get through to her in pressure situations, she was pragmatic and concise.
“Nah,” said Nielsen. “I’m good.”