Battle rages to fill Southeast's goal

Saturday, August 16, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ Southeast's Casey Kraft, left, dribbled against two Arkansas State defenders Friday.

The Southeast Missouri State women's soccer team lost seven starters from last year's squad that made its second straight NCAA tournament appearance.

But nobody will be more difficult to replace than Lindsay Pickering.

Pickering rewrote Southeast's record book for goalkeeping during a three-year career that ended with her being named the Ohio Valley Conference's top defender in 2007.

"Those are big shoes to fill," Southeast coach Heather Nelson said.

Nelson said she has not yet decided who will try to fill Pickering's shoes, but Rachel Harrington and Jessica Beckham both had their moments Friday night as the Redhawks routed visiting Arkansas State 7-0 in their second exhibition game.

Harrington played 60 minutes and Beckham the other 30 minutes as Southeast improved to 2-0 in its three-game exhibition schedule.

While neither had an abundance of work as Southeast dominated, Beckham made a great diving stop while Harrington came out to deftly scoop up several dangerous crosses.

FRED LYNCH ~ Southeast Missouri State's Mabel Velarde dribbled the ball between Arkansas State's Stasha Siers, left, and Bernadette Dierker during the first half Friday.

"They've both played very well," said Nelson, referring not only to Friday's contest, but also preseason practice.

Pickering, in her first season as a Southeast assistant after her stellar playing career, agreed.

"The goalkeepers are doing a good job," Pickering said. "Jessica is recovering from an elbow injury, but she's doing well and Rachel has come a long way since the spring."

Harrington, a junior from Vancouver, Wash., is the most experienced of Southeast's goalies, having backed up Pickering the past two years.

But that resulted in little playing time since Pickering gobbled up virtually all of the minutes in the nets.

"It's nice to get the opportunity, but it's a battle," Harrington said. "I feel we have a good competition going in goal. It's anybody's position to win."

No matter who ends up winning the position, Harrington acknowledged that replacing Pickering is "definitely big shoes to fill."

Beckham, a sophomore from Incarnate Word Academy in suburban St. Louis, was also on the team last year. She saw no action in the nets, but played one game in the field and actually scored a goal.

"It's definitely good competition," Beckham said. "Rachel is putting up a great competition.

"It's exciting to know I'll get a chance to prove what I've got."

Beckham said being able to work with Pickering in practice has provided a major boost.

"It's awesome having Lindsay as coach," Beckham said.

Southeast has a third goalie on the roster, redshirt freshman Hannah Groom, a transfer from Northwest Missouri State.

Groom saw action along with Harrington during Tuesday's exhibition opener, a 3-2 win at Indiana State, but Nelson said she will decide between Harrington and Beckham to fill the nets.

Not that Nelson is ready to making that decision.

"The best situation is to have them both sharp," she said.

Most of the Redhawks were sharp against Arkansas State as Southeast converted nearly half of its 15 shots.

Senior Casey Kraft, entering her fourth season as a starter, had two goals and one assist.

Sophomore Ashley Runion, the 2007 OVC freshman of the year, also scored twice.

Netting one goal apiece were senior Megan McGrath, sophomore Mabel Velarde and freshman Shona Goodwin. Velarde is a transfer from NAIA power Lee University.

Senior Nicole Bussman, junior Lauren Lacopo and freshman Nikki Edwards added assists.

"I thought they controlled play for about the first 15 minutes and then we came on strong," Nelson said.

Southeast has its final exhibition game Sunday when Missouri-St. Louis visits Houck Stadium for a 7 p.m. start.

The defending OVC regular-season and tournament champion Redhawks play their first official game Aug. 22 when Saint Louis University visits.

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