MURFREESBORO — Emma Grace Goldman flashes a smile as she begins to talk about her late stepbrother, Nicholas Blake Anderson.
The two shared a love of soccer.
He was a forward with the uncanny ability to juke his sister to get shots off. Goldman is the best high school girls goalkeeper in Rutherford County and has been the last few years.
They’d practice against each other during the summer.
Anderson died May 5 after his car flipped several times and hit a tree.
“My brother was my best friend,” Goldman said. “I don’t want to say it destroyed me because my family and I lean very heavily on God.
“But I was not very focused for about three or four weeks.”
However, that focus has returned.
Today, a picture of Anderson with his obituary is laminated and taped to a goalpost on the Oakland High practice field. It lets Goldman know her brother is still close to her.
“I wear his number now too,” Goldman said. “I had never worn No. 3 before this year. That was his favorite number. It’s the number he wore when he played soccer.”
While the death has weighed heavily on Goldman, it’s also made her stronger in her faith and as a person.
It forced her to mature while dealing with his death.
Dominant in goal
Goldman, an all-state goalkeeper, didn’t allow a goal in a District 7-AAA regular season game a year ago. She’s been virtually as dominant this season. Through the Lady Patriots’ first four league games, she’s allowed just one goal in league play, which came a week ago in an Oakland 2-1 win over Smyrna.
Goldman, who will be a walk-on at LSU plans on graduating from Oakland in December and enrolling in classes in January.
“I think the spring season (at LSU) will be less hectic than the fall,” she said. “It will be a good chance to get in there and get my feet wet and get in there and earn a spot early.”
Goldman has done that while the Patriots (8-1-3) have battled adversity. Oakland lost defender Shelby Parker to a torn ACL earlier this season and teammate Emily Zippay, a Western Carolina commitment, went down with an ACL tear against Smyrna. Both are gone for the season.
“She’s gotten a lot better at being a leader,” Oakland coach Jeff Boynton said. “With the rotation we have and with Shelby and Zippay out, we’re playing with freshmen or players that are playing out of their normal position. Or they are underclassmen and don’t have the experience.
“She’s always talking. You can hear her yelling from the back even when we have the ball. She’s always communicating. That’s a big positive that we have.”
And perhaps more important, she is a defensive stopper as the last line of defense. In Oakland’s 2-0 win over Stewarts Creek a week ago, Goldman made several key saves including one diving grab that saved a sure goal.
“I’ve been trying to work on my flighted balls a little bit,” she said. “… I’m trying to be more aggressive than I was last year just to alleviate some of that stress that is on the defense. I’ve been trying to work more on my reaction time — getting down on those quick flicks or touches.”
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Kreager.
Riverdale at Stewarts Creek, 4 p.m.
Siegel at Smyrna, 5 p.m.
La Vergne at Overton, 5:15 p.m.
Cannon Co. at MTCS, 6 p.m.
Blackman at Oakland, 7 p.m.