Rachel Gerhardt has been a soccer goalie most of her life — picking up the position when she was 9 years old — but this is her lone season between the pipes at Boone Grove.
She's picked up a pair of shutouts and provided stability in a penalty-kick shootout win against Northwest Indiana Soccer Conference foe Marquette for the Times No. 8 Wolves (5-0).
"I've never pushed myself this hard," said Gerhardt, who plans to graduate a year early. "This year is so important to me. It's better than I thought it would be."
The reasons for the short career at keeper once angered Gerhardt, but the experience has provided some highly valued perspective.
Gerhardt plays soccer year round — almost all of the time at goalie. She entered high school primed to be the Wolves' keeper, but found out that position was already filled by transfer Brittany Shaffer.
"At first, I was a little mad; I was like, 'What the heck?'" Gerhardt said. "I put all of my work into this and then I hear that I'm going to be on the field. I hadn't played there since I was 8, and I was like, 'What do I do now?'
"Then I realized I was 14 and Bri was (older). ... I figured that I might as well put my gloves to the side, pick up the cleats and start running."
Boone Grove coach Chad Roggow understood Gerhardt's pain, but he needed her elsewhere.
"I've always felt guilty about it; I kind of groomed her through middle school to 'Keep playing goalie,'" he said. "Brittany was a decent goalie, but there was no comparison between her and Rachel out in the field.
"She's really almost afraid of nothing, and that is why she was so good up front for us."
Gerhardt scored 19 goals last season. Paired with Paige Aguilera, the program's all-time leading scorer, and Mackenzie Starcevich, the Wolves had a formidable offense.
"Soccer is now two completely different games for me; I developed a new love for the game," Gerhardt said. "Paige, Mackenzie and I were the trio. If I was out there by myself, I know I couldn't have done it.
"It also helped me so much as goalie, because I learned about angles."
Shaffer graduated last spring, so Gerhardt is using her newly found lessons in net. The junior has scored two goals this season — during the second halves of some lop-sided wins — but Roggow is content to keep her in goal.
"She's very mobile, has great reflexes and is really afraid of nothing; that's kind of why she was also good up front," he said. "I've had some good goalies in the past, but if somebody got by our defense I didn't think it would be pretty. ... Rachel can unequivocally do everything."