It’s an unusual arrangement to say the least, but this is the second time in three years it’s happened at West High. The girls soccer team is on its way to the state tournament with two goalies who split time. The boys team went through a similar situation in 2010.
Junior Jayne Heinrich was the incumbent keeper this season, having been in goal during West’s state runner-up season in 2011. But along came sophomore Beth Crow with the kind of skills that coach Dave Rosenthal couldn’t bear to see on the sideline.
“We had Beth last year as a freshman, and we thought we needed to develop Beth into our system; we need to let Beth play a lot of games and get experience,” Rosenthal said. “It became pretty clear that we’re not going to be able to keep Beth down at that (sophomore) level, otherwise we’re going to lose her.”
That dilemma prompted multiple discussions with the players individually and together.
“What I love about Jayne is she understands it’s a team sport,” Rosenthal said. “She’s in a specialized position. She’s trained for it for years, but they both play with their club team and play every minute. Now you’re asking them to essentially split time.
“They understand the situation at least logically. Emotionally it might be a bit of a struggle for both of them. They’ve been very gracious and incredibly supportive of each other.”
“It was just different from my freshman and sophomore year,” Heinrich said. “But I’ve gotten used to it.”
Crow called Heinrich “an amazing goalkeeper.”
“I’m honored to split time with her,” she said. “I want to make the best of the opportunities and keep working at it.”
They have almost exclusively played goalie throughout their formative years.
“I tried forward a couple of times,” Crow said. “Nobody really likes to play keeper, so I thought I’d try it and I really got into it and started liking it. I’ve never been much for running.
“It’s a solo position, and I can use my hands. I’m better with my hands. I like telling people where to go, and I like blocking balls. I like having that control.”
Heinrich said she loves being the only player who can see the entire field. She enjoys the creative nature of the game and watching different combinations come to life in front of her.
“I really like how you have to have quick reactions and think about it,” she said. “You have the ability to tell everyone else what they should be doing. I’m a very organizational person so I like organizing people and making sure they’re in the right spot.”
They have different strengths but they are not so disparate that Rosenthal can simply designate one or the other to match up to the tendencies of a particular opponent. They have different personalities as well.
Heinrich is a little more outgoing.
“She’s a much better talker,” Crow said, smiling. “She’s very good at that. I’m more of a reserved type of person.”
Heinrich said she actually had to develop that talent through the years but now has no trouble chatting up her defensive line.
“(Crow’s) really good at PKs, that’s never really been one of my strong points,” Heinrich said. “She’s helped me read them a lot better. She’s also helped me with my throwing, and I’ve helped her with her punts.”
Heinrich is playing the first half and Crow the second.
Rosenthal reserves the right to change the order or go with a hot keeper throughout an entire game. He was cagey when asked what he would do in the event of a shootout at state.
“The players don’t notice a difference,” he said. “The players don’t favor one over the other. They are comfortable with both of those keepers. So as far as the team goes, there’s no difference.”
The players have developed an approach that helps handle the half-and-half situation.
“It’s hard to mentally prepare yourself,” Heinrich said. “Personally, I think I play better when I’m playing right from the get-go. I thought it was going to be hard, but I love watching my team. It doesn’t feel that different (to be on the bench).”
“You just kind of get focused for the game,” Crow said. “It doesn’t matter who’s playing, you both go into it like you’re playing and get mentally prepared. Even if you’re not playing that game you know you have to support the other goalkeeper all through it.”
They help each other at halftime by trading observations and notes.
“She’s actually helped me a lot this season,” Heinrich said.
Maybe two heads are better than one.