Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Women’s 2010 soccer off on the right foot

Kristen Hamilton

Pioneers freshman Kristen Hamilton breaks around a Nebraska defender in DU's 5-1 exhibition victory.

In sports, when a team of 25 has 11 freshmen and five sophomores, you invariably hear the phrase rebuilding year kicked around.

And yes, you could call the University of Denver Pioneers women’s soccer team a lot of things: young, small, even inexperienced. But another term that’s fitting like a goalie glove’s is winner.

The squad is taking out older, bigger and more seasoned teams, and all the while mounting an 8-2 record. The kind of record a rebuilding year isn’t supposed to yield.  

Even the team’s head coach, Jeff Hooker, says he’s a little surprised. Pleasantly so, though.

“We have a very ambitious schedule where we’ve kind of thrown them into the fire and they’re answering the challenge,” Hooker says.

One of youngest players that’s on fire is freshman forward Kristen Hamilton of Littleton, Colo. She took home Sun Belt Conference player-of-the-week honors in Sept. 21 as the Pioneer’s leader in game-winning goals. And against a tough Purdue University team this fall, she scored two goals in the last two minutes to seal a 2-1 victory. After her first goal tied the game with 80 seconds left, Hamilton booted in the game-winner at the buzzer. 

Hooker was, and is, impressed.

“She may not be very big but she plays big,” he says. “She has speed and toughness. Purdue picked her up and threw her down, but she got up and scored twice on them. She can handle herself just fine.”

Hamilton says her toughness comes from her older sister and dad. “They were tough on me when I was growing up and that’s helped make me stronger,” she says. “A lot of college defenders are taller and bigger, but that doesn’t matter to me.”

The difference in the squad members’ sizes and ages isn’t a problem. In fact, to Hooker, that kind of diversity is a plus.

“Our seniors work with the younger players to get them to not play up or down to opponents but to simply play their own game each time they go out on the field, and that’s helping us a lot.”

Hooker says a trip this summer to Sun Valley, Idaho, gave team members a chance to know each other better. “They clicked early on, and they’re still coming together as a team,” he says.

Senior defensive starter Jessie Rogers calls the young team “exciting” and says it has “made huge strides.”

“I think one reason we’re winning is that we can incorporate them [the younger players] into the game easily because of the off-the-field friendships,” Rogers says. “We have a lot of crafty and intelligent players who are making an impact all over the field.”

Hamilton agrees. “Everyone gets a long so well, no one judges you … and the seniors are keeping us together. They tell us to keep our heads up.”

The Pioneers take on Louisiana-Lafayette at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 at DU’s Ciber Field and Louisisna-Monroe at noon on Oct. 3 at Ciber Field.


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