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ND Women’s Soccer: Freshman Hight guards the net

Brian Hartnett | Monday, August 27, 2012

Standing guard over the goal with her six-foot frame, Irish freshman goalkeeper Elyse Hight, the tallest player on the Irish roster, fittingly lives up to her last name. While some might bristle at the notion of possessing height in a game dominated by speed and agility, Notre Dame’s newest netkeeper readily cites her stature as one of her greatest tools.

“I think one unique thing I have is versatility with my height,” Hight said. “I think a lot of other keepers aren’t able to dive as well as I can.”

Just as telling about Hight’s skills in goal, however, is the other quality she said has helped set her apart from other goalies.

“On the field, I believe nothing can get past me, which is a huge advantage as a keeper,” Hight said. “I think if you have the attitude that nothing can get past you, then most of the time it won’t.”

Hight’s combination of unique physical skills and unabashed confidence helped her emerge as the starter from a talented group of five Irish goalies, including the incumbent duo of senior Maddie Fox and sophomore Sarah Voigt, after a tough competition over the summer. Despite the battles over the starting job, the goalies have inspired each other to work harder, Hight said.

“[The keepers] really push each other, and I think that’s the one place where having five keepers really helps,” Hight said. “When we know we have a weakness, we’ll really help each other push through it and figure out how to conquer that weakness, which has really helped us grow individually.”

Although her college career is at its very earliest stages, Hight has not revealed many weaknesses in goal. After allowing a late goal in her regular-season debut at Wisconsin, the Edmond, Okla., native starred in her return home to the Sooner State, making five saves and earning her first shutout in a 2-0 victory over Tulsa on Friday. She maintained her clean sheet with three saves and a shutout in 75 minutes of action against East Carolina in Sunday’s home opener.

For her performances against Tulsa and East Carolina, Hight received the accolades of Big East Goalkeeper of the Week, becoming the first Notre Dame rookie since 2002 to claim that honor. She said her early season successes have helped her overcome the initial pressure of starting the season in goal.

“There definitely was a lot of pressure going into the college arena, but I’m really just starting to get used to the game and the flow of it,” Hight said. “With two shutouts under my belt now, I feel good going into these two harder games this weekend.”

Hight’s first major test as Irish goalkeeper will commence this weekend, as she will face the vaunted soccer powerhouses of No. 21/25 Santa Clara and No. 14/19 North Carolina in a span of three days. She said a major key to her success in goal this weekend will be her communication with the Irish defense, a young unit she has started to develop a bond with in her short time on the field.

“[The defense and I] have definitely developed a chemistry, even with having multiple freshmen coming in and playing on the defensive line,” Hight said. “It didn’t start out as chemistry right off the bat, but we’re building each game and getting better each time we go out there. I think we’ll be good coming into this weekend.”

Given Hight’s contribution to the team so far, it’s easy to forget she’s only in her second week as a Notre Dame student, a title that holds much significance to her. Hight earned the Bob Colon scholarship, presented to the top female high school student-athlete in the Oklahoma City area, for her performance in the classroom. She also compiled a lengthy resume off the soccer field, lettering in three other sports, serving in the National Honor Society, performing community service and earning citations for her poetry. She said she has already joined the choir for her dorm masses and plans to participate in various other activities on campus.

But, make no mistake about it, Hight’s biggest goal at the moment is to help elevate her young team, dubbed the “Baby Irish” by coach Randy Waldrum, to the championship caliber level maintained by past Irish squads.

“I just want to keep getting better as a player and help my team in the best way I can,” Hight said. “Our goal is to go on to win the national championship, and I would be lying if I said anything other than that.”

If all goes according to her plan, then it seems Irish fans can expect to see Hight walking tall this December, accompanied by an extra spring in her step only provided by victory.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu