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Junior goalkeeper guides Bombers to defensive success

Junior+goalkeeper+Grace+Hickey+clears+the+ball+upfield+following+a+save.+Hickey+is+currently+leading+the+Liberty+League+with+only+six+goals+allowed+as+of+Oct.+31.
Rayahna Tryka
Junior goalkeeper Grace Hickey clears the ball upfield following a save. Hickey is currently leading the Liberty League with only six goals allowed as of Oct. 31.

The Ithaca College women’s soccer team is fresh off its first Liberty League championship in program history and a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2022. This season, they have picked up right where they left off with a 9–2–4 regular season record. At the forefront of that success has been a junior that has guarded the net like a lock and key. 

The team boasts a strong defensive squad up the roster, but the leader of the defense has been junior goalkeeper Grace Hickey. So far this season, Hickey posts a 9–2–4 record and has only allowed six goals, adding 10 shutouts to her statistics. Hickey has also led the team to a 5–1–3 record within the Liberty League, just one point behind second place RIT at 19 points.

Head coach Mindy Quigg said Hickey has shown exponential amounts of development since her first game and is setting the tone for the team, especially the defensive group.

“Her maturity over the past year and willingness to take chances and allow herself to grow into her role has been her most impressive trait,” Quigg said. “The relationship our defensive unit builds that is doing exactly what we’re asking, it’s all part of our team. Collective defense is important and it’s important that the goalkeeper is on top of that.”

Quigg said Hickey exemplifies the team culture of accepting roles and helping each other out regardless of the position on the team.

“Understanding it’s a privilege, accepting roles and being respectful of others in their roles,” Quigg said. “Everyone’s putting in the work in each session and Grace does that and supports that. She’s been on both sides of that and she’s now a 90 minute player and handles it with a tremendous amount of respect for all of her teammates. She sets a great example of the culture we want in our program.”

Hickey said she was not always a goalkeeper and that she switched to the position long before her high school and college days.

“I fell in love with the sport while I was playing it and I switched to goalkeeping when I was eight or nine years old,” Hickey said. “I fell in love with the sport all over again because goalkeeping was something new and different.”

Hickey said her teammates have had an enormous impact on her performance and that they do not work for themselves, but for the team and each other.

“It’s the team I’m on and the teammates around me, as they become your family during your time here whether it’s one or four seasons,” Hickey said. “You want to play for your teammates, win for each other and you put in a lot of hard work for each other and want to succeed as a unit.”

Prior to Hickey’s two goals allowed in the Bombers regular season finale Oct. 28, she was in the midst of a hot stretch, as she did not allow a goal since the team’s last loss at William Smith College on Sep. 27, where she only let up one goal. Hickey has stopped her last 22 shots faced, resulting in a 4–0–2 record in the team’s last six games.

Hickey said that being a goalkeeper is the most challenging position on the field mentally, but knowing that her teammates have full trust in her to perform at the highest level has helped her reach her level of success.

“A huge part of it is instilling confidence, as being a goalkeeper is definitely the worst mental position on the field,” Hickey said. “You make one mistake in the back of the net and it can make the difference in the game. Having confidence instilled in me when I did not fully have confidence in myself is definitely a huge part of it.”

Hickey said the defensive unit in front of her has allowed her to perform as well as she has, but more importantly that everyone on the team has a crucial role contributing to the team’s record.

“I’m always going to give a big shout out to the defense in the back; we lock it down in the back and are a wall back there, but it really comes down to everyone,” Hickey said. “Even the people on the bench are doing their part, as everyone on this team matters and we wouldn’t be as successful as we are without every single one of them.”

Part of that defensive unit is junior defender Allison Heft. Heft said Hickey sets the right example in goal and that the defense relies a lot on her for communication as she can see the entire field in front of her.

“Her and [senior goalkeeper Kate Lawrence] are both very talented and they push each other to be better,” Heft said. “She is also super talented and such a great teammate and I think what makes her a great teammate is because she stops all of these shots and has to communicate a lot in the game. All of our teammates look to Grace to communicate because she sees the entire field and helps us stay organized when we play, which is very important.”

Heft said she admires Hickey’s development into becoming the starting goalkeeper and that she has built up a stronger relationship with her on and off the field over the last three years.

“We’ve gotten much closer, especially this year,” Heft said. “Grace has really grown and stepped into her role as the starting goalkeeper and we’ve definitely gotten much closer as we are playing on the field together every game.”

Now being an upperclassman on the team, Hickey said one of the biggest reasons why she chose the college was because of the relationship she saw amongst the team when she first visited as a junior in high school.

“That was one of the main reasons why I decided to come to Ithaca College,” Hickey said. “When I came to the camp here as a junior in high school, I saw how much of a family community they had here and that really drew me to the community. We’re all great friends on and off the field and having fun is a huge part of the game, as you need to have fun too.”

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Rayahna Tryka, Photographer
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