Two seasons ago, UW-La Crosse soccer coach Jason Murphy and his staff were able to put together an incredible recruiting class.
That class includes 10 juniors currently on the Eagles roster, seven of whom are regularly featured in the starting lineup. It’s also a decorated class, with five players earning first-team All-WIAC honors and three players earning all-region honors over the past two seasons — numbers that will surely increase when this season’s awards are released.
That sort of talent makes it all the more impressive when a freshman can crack the starting lineup, much less thrive the way that Lily Brock has as goalkeeper for UW-La Crosse this season.
Brock made her first start for the Eagles on Sept. 20, the seventh game of the season for UW-L, and started all seven conference games this season.
The results have been stellar, including a 11-1 record in 12 starts, allowing just four goals in more than 1,000 minutes of play.
Her teammates will readily admit it took her a while to grow into the position, but Brock has become a big reason why the Eagles will be playing host to the WIAC tournament championship game set for 5 p.m. today at the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex.
“I’m so proud of Lily’s development,” junior defender Megan Carroll said. “She didn’t start at the beginning of the year, and she’s really had to fight her way to the starting spot. It’s really amazing standing in front of her and watching her grow as a goalie. Before she wouldn’t say anything, but now she’s loud and communicative and telling everyone what to do. She’s very confident and has grown into her position.”
Brock admitted that joining a roster with the amount of talent that UW-L has was intimidating at first.
“It took a couple times of the juniors and seniors looking at me and saying to demand the ball if I want it, to be as vocal as I need to be given my position,” Brock said. ‘I was coming into a (situation with a) lot of kids that were very confident. We had a great back four returning. Once I started to feel that I fit in here, it made it easier to take charge a little bit more.”
Brock had to win her spot from junior Kennedy Brault — a first-team all-WIAC goalkeeper in 2015 — and Murphy said that the Eagles are fortunate to have the sort of position battle that breeds daily competition.
“We have a special luxury in goal in that we have a lot of depth with some quality goalkeepers,” Murphy said. “Lily has really stepped up and played in all of our conference matches and done a really good job. We’ve been lucky enough to not have to play her day in and day out so she’s fresh and ready to go this time of year.”
With a veteran defense in front of her, Brock said that she’s been able to shake off the nerves that might come with being a freshman, even when forcing a conference tournament championship game and potentially more.
“Confidence comes with every game and every practice, and I’m honestly super lucky to have a back four that allows me to play so confidently,” said Brock. “They take a lot of pressure off me in the back, so that when I do have the ball in my hands, I’m pretty confident that whatever I do with it, I can trust my teammates and I try and make big saves when they ask me to.”