UNCG Goalkeeper Kelsey Kearney jumps up to block a shot to the goal during a practice.

Her objective: keeping the ball out of the goal.

Going into SoCon play in late September, Kelsey Kearney had left opponents scoreless 22 times in her career, just three shy of the UNCG women’s soccer record.

The junior kinesiology major says a lot of the success is due to the team’s defenders. “No goals,” she learned as a freshman, was their mantra. Defender Jamie Corti, an upperclassman, set the standard with a clear message: Don’t let goals in.

So how does she know when to hang back or when to go out and get the ball? Instinct – or something learned from working with goalkeeper coach Bill Steffen?

“Repetitions. Practice. It’s situational.” You learn what works for you. In games, you really don’t have time to think.

“You make a decision, you go with it. You can’t second-guess yourself.”

And when you do stop the ball, you must control it cleanly. “Having good hands is part of being goalkeeper,” she says.

In addition to approaching the career record for shut outs, Kearney is currently the school’s career leader in goals against average.

I don’t like to follow the stats. I’d rather just win.

As a freshman, she was first team All-SoCon. Last year she was second-team All-SoCon and Academic All-SoCon.

UNCG was originally not on her radar, but she came for a visit.

“I met the coaches, saw the field, toured campus.” She explains that the stadium wowed her. “Not many schools have a better facility.”

She took no more official visits to colleges. She knew she’d be playing as a Spartan.

It’s a program that schedules against tough national opponents – Coach Eddie Radwanski sees to that. Last year, they faced No. 1 UNC Chapel Hill and No. 2 Stanford, losing to each by only one goal.

One of her most memorable wins was last year when the team blanked No. 11 Duke 1-0. She had a season-high nine saves in that match. “We did all within our power to keep the ball out of the net.”

The team’s highest national ranking this year was No. 18, a mark they achieved after defeating No. 10 Wake Forest.

With a 5-1-1 mark before SoCon play, they had their best start in more than a decade.

She is part of a special team. “We’re very close.”

And she is on pace for, potentially, some special marks, which she downplays.

“I don’t like to follow the stats. …  I’d rather just win.”

Photography by Chris English, University Relations