The last line of defense on the men’s soccer team seems to be filled — for now.
Despite earlier uncertainty about which of three contenders would be starting for the Elis (1-0-3), it appears Erik Geiger ’08 will continue to start in the goal he has occupied since the beginning of the season.
Head coach Brian Tompkins said he was confident in his starter.
“[Geiger]’s been playing the best,” Tompkins said. “It’s a very simple kind of equation – they all had an opportunity.”
But Geiger’s selection as starting goalie this year was far from inevitable. Although the 6-foot-2-inch sophomore made first team All-Conference and second team All-State while playing for his New Jersey High School, racking up an impressively low .38 goals-against-average, his rivals for the job had far more college goalkeeping experience.
Matt Aleksinas ’06, Geiger’s main competition, returned from a season of 367 minutes played, and both Aleksinas, with 2,230, and Dwayne Whylly ’08 with 423, started this season with more career minutes in the Elis’ goal than Geiger – whose playing experience was limited to a single half his rookie season.
But defender Evan Stone ’07 said the differences in playing time were deceptive.
“They’ve all played at high levels outside college and play a lot of minutes at practice,” Stone said.
Rookies like center midfielder Tyler Guse ’09 are in a unique position to judge Geiger’s play, never having played soccer for Yale before this year.
“I didn’t even know that stat,” Guse said when asked about Geiger’s playing time in 2004. “It may be a little bit surprising. It shows how well he’s playing.”
Other players said they trust any of the three goalies to be starter.
“I think I speak for the whole team when I say I feel confident in all three of the goalies,” forward Josh Block ’07 said.
Geiger has started in all four of the Bulldogs’ games this season, playing over 424 minutes and racking up 17 saves and a 1.06 goals against average, allowing only five goals in the process.
Some members of the team prefer the job of starting goalkeeper to be stable.
“Changing up all the time would be bad because you get used to one,” Block said. “You know they’ll do a good job, it’s just getting used to [different goalies].”
Stone disagrees, saying he favors a system where any player could be replaced.
“I think there’s uncertainty in a lot of positions,” he said. “We don’t have any real star players. It’s more a competition.”
Geiger himself said competition for the starting spot ultimately helps the entire team.
“If you know you’re competing for a spot, you’re going to work hard to improve yourself, which helps the team, which is what it’s all about,” he said.
It is unclear which system the team currently has. Tompkins says Geiger’s role is not set in stone, and he will continue until his form worsens or another goalie’s play becomes “exceptional.”
But goalie Dwayne Whylly ’08 plans to upset Tompkins’s selection.
“I want to be the starter,” he said. “I’m going to make it difficult for the coaches to choose.”
Whylly also prefers the starting position not be final for anyone.
“[Competition] is always the best, it brings out the best in everyone,” he said. “It’s definitely made me get better.”
Whylly was quick to point out Geiger is a capable player.
“Geiger’s definitely a competent goalkeeper,” he said. “He’s quick with his feet and has a lot of the qualities a goalie should.”
Last season the Bulldogs had four goalies at their disposal, with Geoff Hollington ’05 and Aleksinas starting the first few games. Whylly played in six games later in the season.
The Bulldogs tied their first three games, but managed to pick up the win in their most recent game, at home against American. Friday they travel to Hanover, N.H., where they will play the University of Rhode Island.
If all goes according to plan, Geiger will be starting.