By AUSTIN COLBERT
Fort Hays State University women's soccer coach Craig Shaw had a good idea of what he had coming into the season in redshirt freshman goalkeeper Kristen Thompson. And the general feeling was a good one, even considering he was trying to replace two solid goalies in Nicole Barnaba and Kelsey Grey.
"We saw her this spring," Shaw said. "We were so excited about this fall because we knew she was probably one of the best keepers in the conference and probably the best keeper we've had here. So it is really exciting that she's got four years to be able to play and help our defense."
Thompson, a Manhattan native, redshirted last season as she recovered from a shoulder injury. As she was able to get on the field in the spring, her confidence continued to grow, although the nerves remained as the Tigers entered the 2014 season with her as the team's starting goalkeeper.
"The spring gave me a huge boost in confidence. It kind of warmed me up for the season and getting into college play," Thompson said. "I was pretty nervous coming into the season ... I really learned a lot about how much faster college soccer is and how much the speed of play is different. I really got to learn from the other goalkeepers last year on how to handle it and really step up and direct my defense and the team and be a leader."
And to no surprise of Shaw, she's done just that. Following Sunday's scoreless draw with the University of Central Oklahoma (8-2-2 overall, 5-1-2 MIAA) at the FHSU Soccer Stadium, Thompson has recorded seven shutouts this season, breaking the previous team record of six set by Barnaba in 2012.
Her eight saves against the Bronchos matched a career high, originally set Sept. 27 in a 1-0 win at Missouri Southern State University.
"Absolutely incredible -- it's like we have a wide receiver on our team by the way she just jumps in and gets balls," senior forward Hailey Davey said of Thompson. "She is totally, absolutely killing it. ... She worked really hard when she was redshirted last year and now she's coming out and kicking butt. It's awesome."
Thompson's efforts in net, along with the play of the entire defense, has been key for FHSU (6-4-2, 4-2-2) as its offense hasn't clicked the way it was when it scored eight combined goals over the first two games of the season.
The Tigers outshout UCO 19-13 on Sunday, including a plus-one advantage in shots on goal. While opportunities were abundant for both teams, each had to settle for the draw after two overtime periods in what was a key battle for third place in the MIAA.
"I'm not happy settling for the tie, but I'm happy with the way we played and I'm happy that we went for the win," Shaw said. "I don't think we are necessarily missing anything. We've got the players to do it. We are just going to have to get the ball to their feet earlier and be a little bit more composed in front of the goal. But we are creating chances and it's better to be keeping clean sheets than letting goals in and losing 4-3."
The Tigers will return to action on Friday when they host Northwest Missouri State (6-5-1, 3-4-1) at 7 p.m. FHSU will then host Missouri Western (7-4-1, 4-3-1) at noon Sunday to close out a four-game home stand.