When Sunday’s delayed homecoming women’s soccer match against Hanover was over, Danielle Gilles dutifully nodded while her father told her to ask Anderson University head coach Jennifer Myhre about the school record for saves.
The Ravens had just lost for the 12th straight time to start the season, and Gilles thought her dad might just have been attempting to make her feel better.
Turns out the old man was onto something after all.
Gilles made 21 saves in a 5-0 loss to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference leaders, setting the school record in just her fifth start in goal.
[Photo: AU women’s soccer goalie Danielle Gilles.]
“It was pretty exciting,” Gilles said during a phone interview Monday. “I’ve never done anything like that before.”
There have been a lot of firsts for the Ravens this season. It’s the first year for Myhre as coach, 13 of the 25 players on the roster are freshmen and both goalkeepers the team has used this year essentially were playing the position for the first time.
This wasn’t the plan, of course.
Myhre attempted to recruit a couple of goalies, but things just didn’t match up in the end. So she went looking for players with any experience at all.
Freshman Kristen Werking had played a few games in goal during her first year at New Castle High School, and she volunteered to start the season there for AU.
“Coach came up and asked me and just said, ‘Hey, this is pretty much all we have. Can you help us out?’” Werking said. “Just being the type of kid I am, I was like, ‘Well, of course, I’ll do whatever you need me to do.’”
She played the first seven matches in goal, but spent the last two weeks of that time dealing with a groin injury. It’s a particularly tough blow for a goalkeeper, whose job depends on quickly moving laterally to make saves.
But Werking was determined to play through the pain.
“She pulled it early in the season, played injured,” Myhre said. “Probably shouldn’t have been in the goal just because she was too hurt but pushed through it and had the mindset ‘I’m going to play through it.’ At the end of the day, we need to keep her healthy. And I said, ‘All right, let’s find someone else to do it.’”
Gilles watched with sympathy as Werking’s condition worsened. She’d dealt with an ACL injury of her own during her days at Greenwood High School, and she completely understood the sacrifice Werking was trying to make.
Gilles just believed it had gone far enough.
So she marched into Myhre’s office and asked if she was willing to train yet another new goalkeeper.
“It’s gone really well,” Gilles said. “Sometimes I get down on myself if (the opponents) score. But I have to remember I have a team behind me. They do a great job of supporting me and picking me up when I’m down.”
An art major, Gilles has a demanding class schedule that fills most of her Mondays and Wednesdays. Her days start with classes from 9 to 10 a.m. and from 11 a.m. to noon. In the afternoon she has class from 3 to 5 p.m. and ends the day with class from 6 to 9 p.m.
She tries to squeeze in a workout during her afternoon break, and she often doesn’t eat dinner until after her final class.
“Her reaction (time) is really good, and even with her class schedule, she might get a practice a week in the goal,” Myhre said. “And so it really shows you just within two weeks what she can do and her abilities.”
Gilles isn’t sure where she will go from here. She’ll continue to play in goal next season if that’s what’s best for the team.
For now, Werking simply appreciates the fact her teammate was willing to step into a tough situation and make the most of it.
“I am so proud of the way she came in and just stepped up and was like, ‘You know what, Coach, I’ll be goalie,’” Werking said. “That took a lot off me. I tried for like two weeks to say, ‘No, we can do this. We can work through this. We can do what needs to be done.’ Finally, it was like, ‘Look, we can’t do this anymore.’ So for her to step up was big, and it really helped me out.”
The Ravens have taken their lumps this season, but they believe it all will pay off down the road. Myhre said players have made sacrifices all over the field in service of what’s best for the future.
“It’s a building process,” she said. “We’ll take and learn some things this year, build next year, bring some more numbers in, and work on a foundation of who we are as a team and a program.”
— George Bremer is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.