Saving the day
Two championship wins in four years. A player of the year honor. And a unique goaltending style.
Quinnipiac women’s soccer junior goaltender Olivia Myszewski came to Quinnipiac with quite the resume.
But despite all of these achievements, Myszewski was not guaranteed a starting job when she came to Quinnipiac.
Hailing from Elm Grove, Wisconsin, she helped the Divine Savior Holy Angels High School soccer team win the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association championship in 2014 and again in her senior year in 2016. Both games were 1-0 victories for her team, while she posted eight saves and one save, respectively.
In addition to championships, Myszewski was honored as the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association Player of the Year her senior year. But all of these achievements were thrown out the window once she came to Hamden.
“It was a fresh start so I couldn’t use those accolades to my advantage,” Myszewski said. “I had to show what I brought to the team on my own.”
The competition for the starting job was between three young goalies for the team in 2016. Then-freshman Charlotte Edmunds came in with Myszewski and then-sophomore Devan Malcolm was already at Quinnipiac.
But after Edmunds went down with an injury, Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke saw a lot of positives from Myszewski and gave her the starting job.
“Olivia was a little bit further ahead in her development when she came in than [Malcolm],” Clarke said. “The expectation was Charlotte one, Devan two, Olivia three. But that year she established herself as a number one.”
The competition certainly helped Myszewski, as she used that as motivation and saw it as a positive.
“I think all of us pushed each other in a good way,” Myszewski said. “It’s not our decision to decide who plays or not, it’s the coach’s final decision, so just playing every day to the best of your ability and pushing yourself helped.”
Her freshman year rounded out with an 8-5-0 record, a 1.28 goals against average and three shutouts on the season, including two in the playoffs to get the Bobcats to the MAAC championship before falling to Monmouth, 5-2.
“It was devastating because in the regular season, we lost in OT, 2-1 [to Monmouth], and to come out like that in the finals was disappointing to us,” Myszewski said. “So just coming off of a high with Siena we were thinking, ‘Oh, we got this in the bag.’ We just were too complacent.”
Her sophomore year showed a slight digression in terms of statistics, with a 9-6-3 record and five shutouts, but a higher goals against average with 1.40 goals per game. While statistically she may not have improved, Clarke noticed other things that he was pleased with.
“You start to look at the goals and last year, there wasn’t many goals that you could directly say she was responsible for,” Clarke said. “As goalkeepers get older, you want them to make the big saves, but really what you’re looking for is that they don’t cost you a goal. She didn’t last year.”
Thanks in part to the play of Myszewski, the team was able to make it to the MAAC semifinals before falling to Manhattan. Two years, two playoff runs, but no championship.
This year, the improvements have been there again. Myszewski is 5-4-1 but has four shutouts this year with four more games to go. And her goals against average has dropped to 1.18.
The shutouts have been specifically impressive. She has the chance to best her career-high of five from last year. While she is the one getting credit for the saves, Myszewski gives credit to the whole team for putting a zero on the scoreboard for the opponent.
“It feels good, but it’s mostly a team shutout,” Myszewski said. “I can make as many saves as I want, but if everyone on the job doesn’t do their job like I do my job, then it’s not going to be a clean sheet. So I think it’s more of a team clean sheet.”
Her play this year has not gone unnoticed. She has already been awarded the MAAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the week of Sept. 24. And her goal play has helped her team to a 3-2-1 MAAC record, which is tied for third in the standings.
Despite the fact that Myszewski is in her third year, Clarke believes his goaltender is still learning.
“Junior year and senior year you’re finding your voice,” Clarke said. “When you come in as a freshman, you think you can’t talk and we need a goalkeeper to talk. With her, I talk to her about presence, communication and footwork on the ball. She’s starting to have presence, she’s starting to communicate and now she’s getting better with her feet. She’s taking another step forward this year.”
Communication is key, especially as a goalkeeper, who is responsible for viewing the field and making sure her teammates are aware of the opponents and their positioning. It’s something Clarke has said Myszewski especially has improved on.
“She was quiet year one, still quiet year two, still quiet year three, but talks more and says more and is more involved,” Clarke said. “She’s older and more confident.”
As far as her unique style, the thing that makes Myszewski such a special player is the fact that she’s not your normal goaltender. According to Clarke, she’s more like a hockey goalie.
“She’s unorthodox, it’s not diving full stretch,” Clarke said. “She makes saves that you don’t expect her to save. She made a great save up at Siena where she had no right to save it. Sometimes, she sticks feet out, she sticks a hand out, she takes one on the chin, on the knee.”
This year, the Bobcats are in a prime spot to make another run in the MAAC tournament. However, Clarke says that Myszewski needs to make the big save in order for them to get there.
“I’m hoping that she makes that one telling save that wins a game 1-0,” Clarke said. “That’s the ultimate step forward. Other players have scored to get us into playoffs, so what she needs to do is the same thing. She needs to make that save [when the score is] 0-0 and we go down the other end and we turn and score. She made a great save two years ago in the semis, with about a minute to go. You want more of that.”
As for Myszewski, her focus isn’t quite on the playoffs yet. She’s looking at the rest of the season at a single game basis.
“It’s just getting the job done, going game by game and winning,” Myszewski said. “Giving yourself a good position in the conference and then looking at each game in the playoffs as if it’s our last.”