Schultz makes the adjustments
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
Photos: Daemen University Athletics
Sports is all about adjustments.
Daemen University women’s soccer player Becca Schultz knows all too well about that. In her first season as the Wildcats’ keeper, Schultz had a rough start. Her first three games didn’t go as well as she had hoped as Schultz let in seven goals.
It was gut check time for the sophomore as she needed to get over her nerves, more than anything,
“At the beginning of the 2023 season, I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness as I became the starting goalie for our team. I knew I had room for improvement, and it was my first year as a starter,” stated Schultz. “I wanted to do well for my team and make them proud, but I knew that playing against strong teams like St. Rose and American International would be a challenge. Sometimes, I doubted myself and worried about making mistakes, even when I didn't need to. In those moments, I realized I just needed to believe in myself more and not get stuck in my head.”
You could say that her season was already at a crossroads just three games into the year. Schultz knew she needed to build her confidence, while at the same time make some adjustments to her game.
Whatever she was doing in the first couple of games wasn’t working. It was a meeting with her coach that changed everything around for her. Schultz found the confidence that she had while playing at Grand Island High School.
She would get back in the mindset that she had during her entire playing career. The talk did wonders as Schultz has completely turned her season around as the Wildcats are the number 2 seed heading into the playoffs.
“I made some adjustments and shifted my mindset when my coach, Dan, wanted to discuss with me about one of our games. He noticed that I seemed in my head during that game and wanted to understand why, as well as how he could help me regain my focus and self-belief. Following our conversation, he provided me with encouragement, expressing his confidence in my abilities and my potential for success if I maintained self-belief. This conversation transformed my perspective, and ever since then, I've found myself more consistently engaged in our games delivering strong performances, gaining more self-confidence, and earning the pride of my team,” explained Schultz. “Every day, I put in a lot of effort during practice to improve and address the specific areas that need refinement. Gradually, as we focus on these aspects, I've shown improvement, becoming a better player and contributing to our team's season turnaround.”
Schultz has been one of the biggest reasons for the recent turnaround for the Wildcats. At one point during the year, Daemen was on an 11-game unbeaten streak as they rose to the top of the division.
During the streak, Schultz was receiving accolade after accolade for her play between the pipes. She was named ECC Defensive Player of the Week for her great form. The recognition just helped to add to the surging her confidence.
“Receiving recognition for the effort I invest in each game is meaningful to me. Throughout my soccer career, I haven't experienced this level of acknowledgment for my performance and achievements. This year at Daemen, however, has been different. I appreciate the support of my teammates and coaches, who express their pride in my contributions to the team’s success. Their belief in me has played a crucial role in my development as a goalie,” stated Schultz. “Additionally, being honored by the ECC with the Defensive Player of the Week award is a source of accomplishment. These recognitions, along with the support of my team, boost my confidence and reinforce the notion that belief in oneself and hard work can lead to success. They confirm that I am a capable goalie, alleviating any self-doubt or unnecessary overthinking about my abilities.”
To think that Schultz is doing all this at 5-foot-5-inches is an amazing feet. Schultz wouldn’t be considered one of the tallest keepers in the ECC, or in soccer in general. Usually, keepers are taller so they can protect more of the net.
But, it isn’t all about size, it’s more about positioning. Schultz knows she needs to have better positing as she commands her goal.
“Occasionally, I've considered that my height might be a disadvantage, but it's not something I dwell on often. I have confidence in my vertical jump, which I believe allows me to reach the ball effectively when I am positioned correctly,” stated Schultz. “My positioning to ensure I'm in the right spot to block a shot depends primarily on the ball’s location on the field. If the ball is near the top of the 18-yard box, I position myself a few steps away from the goal line to give me more reaction time if the ball is shot high. If the opposing team advances into the 18-yard box closer to me, I ensure I'm aligned and centered with the ball. I gradually move closer to the player to reduce the available shooting space and wait for the right moment to make a save when she kicks the ball. Additionally, referencing the penalty kick spot and periodically glancing back at the goal posts aids in my positioning, allowing me to be more effective in guarding the goal.”
Schultz also knows that other teams could take some liberties on her inside the box, because of her height. One of the best ways for her to take control is by being more vocal. Being vocal with her defenders allows her to avoid any issues they may have going for a ball.
It could be as easy as using the word keeper if the ball is in the air, and Shultz is going up for it. Or, it could be using the word shield to tell her defender to shield the opposing forward from the ball as she comes out to get it.
“During corner kicks, I issue commands to my team. I instruct them to mark the posts, cover an open player in the box, and ensure one of my teammates marks the player assigned to me,” explained Schultz. “Many teams try to mark me during corners to disrupt my ability to see or block the ball. Having a teammate mark that player frees me to concentrate on the corner. If I can reach the ball, I shout "keeper" to indicate my intention to grab it. However, if I cannot reach it, I yell "away" to signal to the team that I cannot make the play, and they should clear the ball out of the box and up the field.”
Soccer is just the tip of the iceberg for Schultz. Once the soccer season comes to an end, Schultz dives right into indoor track and field (winter), then track and field in the spring. Being able to play both was one of the reasons why Schultz chose to attend Daemen.
The workload hasn’t been as bad as one would think, either. Schul
tz is used to balancing both since she did in while at Grand Island. It’s just all about getting a schedule and routine down.
“Balancing both sports at Daemen has been relatively manageable. In high school, I juggled soccer year-round, and when track and field seasons arrived in the winter and spring, I had to create a schedule to fit everything in with school, soccer, and track,” stated Schultz. “I initially assumed that a similar situation would unfold at Daemen, but both my coaches prefer that during the respective sport's season, I concentrate solely on that sport and not the other one. This approach greatly helps in managing both sports at a Division II university and ensures that I don't become overwhelmed with academic stress and workload.”
Once she gets back int he track routine, Schultz’ favorite event is the 55-meter hurdles for indoors, and when she gets back outside, watch out for her in the 100-meter hurdles. Hurdles is not an easy thing to do.
It take a lot of concentration to be able to jump over the hurdles, while running full speed to the finish line.
“Maintaining concentration is crucial when hurdling. I need to be mentally sharp and fully engaged in the race. It's important to concentrate on executing a proper block start, staying low as I approach each hurdle, ensuring the correct number of steps between each hurdle, and not allowing distractions or nerves to affect my performance,” stated Schultz. “If I make mistakes in my block start, step count, or lose focus during the race, it can significantly disrupt my performance, decrease my speed, and lead to a loss of concentration, making it more challenging to secure first place.”
If two sports at the Division II level isn’t hard enough Schultz is also a top-notch student. While others may struggle juggling everything that have going on in their busy lives, Schultz is just going with the flow.
So far the course load with her academics and athletics hasn’t been bad at all.
“So far, managing academics and athletics hasn't been too challenging for me. The only tricky part is when I have to miss class for games and need to catch up on essential things like tests and assignments,” stated Schultz. “Additionally, during away games, it can be difficult to complete school work on the bus since it's hard to concentrate with 20 other people around. Sometimes, it's hard to stay motivated and resist the temptation to nap for most of the ride.”