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Hart's Ashleigh Tippet: Tough shoes to fill

The Hart senior is picking up the goalkeeper position very quickly

Posted: January 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Hart senior goalkeeper Ashleigh Tippet has recorded nine shutouts this season and has allowed just five goals.

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Goalkeeping may have been in Hart senior Ashleigh Tippet’s blood — but it certainly wasn’t in her closet.

Tippet, who has played soccer nearly all her life, had never stepped foot in the net.

But that didn’t stop Hart head coach Mike Gomez from informing her that he wanted her to try her hand at the keeper position.

Next stop: a local sporting goods store — Tippet didn’t even own soccer gloves.

She may have had to pay for the equipment, but finding someone to teach her the position would prove to be much easier.

Her sister, Brittany, played goalkeeper for the Indians from 2004-07 — and currently holds Hart records for consecutive shutouts (eight), single-season shutouts (18) and lowest goals-against average (0.59) and sits at second with 42 career shutouts.

Needless to say, there’s a lot for Ashleigh to live up to.

“Watching her, I probably picked up a few things,” she says. “But big shoes to fill.”

So far, Ashleigh’s been filling those shoes just fine.

She currently has six consecutive shutouts for the Indians — who are 6-4-1 — and has given up just five goals in 11 games, including nine total shutouts.

That success has not only helped to build up Ashleigh’s confidence, but has helped the girls around her adapt to the idea of having a goalie with no experience behind them.

“Honestly,” says co-captain Kelsey Steck, “from the beginning I was really nervous and scared for her because being put in that position after playing 14 years of soccer and never once going in the goal, that’s a big situation to take on ... I was worried not having a goalkeeper and putting someone in goal that has not played. I was hesitant about it. But she stepped up and took it on. I’m not worried whatsoever, I completely trust her back there and she’s done really well.”

Ashleigh’s success has helped the Indians solidify the one glaring hole Hart had coming into this season.

When her sister left the program in 2007, Casey Perkins picked up right where Brittany left off — playing every minute of every game for four years, and setting the school record for career shutouts with 45.

But Ashleigh has quickly dispelled any notions that the run of solid goalkeeping at Hart is over.

Indians’ players though, were justifiably scared entering preseason practices without their  goalie situation resolved.

“That was our biggest concern,” co-captain Danica Morgan says. “I remember talking to coach Mike and saying, ‘When are we going to get a keeper?’”

Luckily for Hart, Gomez thought Ashleigh’s skills as a setter in volleyball might help her excel in the goal — and so far she’s proved him right.

“It definitely takes commitment and a willingness to be able to have a coach tell you one day you’ll play keeper the whole season,” Morgan says. “It’s not something I’d want to or be comfortable doing.”

The move becomes even more surprising when you factor in the role Ashleigh would have played on the team.

The senior had worked hard over the previous year and a half to earn the starting fullback position — a spot she was expected to excel in this season.

At first, she says, playing in the goal felt a little weird. After all, she had never even used her hands on a soccer field before.

“I’ve actually gotten more confident (in the net),” Ashleigh says. “It feels right now. That’s my position now.”

And while she certainly wouldn’t be playing as well as she has without the dedication and determination she has shown, a major factor in her success has been the help of Brittany.

“She came home and at first, I thought it was a joke. I thought she was playing around because I hadn’t been around and she told me ‘Hey, I’m going to be goalie,’” Brittany says. “After we thought, ‘Yep, this is it,’ she went out to get her gloves and we were out there and throwing the ball.

“I tried to do my best to help prepare her for what she’s going to face in goal. I was shocked, but I didn’t have a doubt in my mind she’d be able to step in there.”

Brittany’s shoes may be tough to fill, but Ashleigh seems to be well on her way.

“Apparently (playing keeper) is in our blood,” Ashleigh says, “and I’ve been fighting it too hard.”

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