BOGACZYK: Kish a `Keeper' After 2013 Herd Comeback
The Word on the Herd-August 8, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Kevin Long said that last season, Marshall women’s soccer goalkeeper Lizzie Kish was perhaps the best in Conference USA in “coming off her line on crosses and was kind of able to clean up the situation before it became a problem. And that’s really hard.”
Another way to look at it?
Kish was coming from nowhere … or so it seemed, even to Long, the MU coach.
A redshirt junior, Kish is ready to help the Thundering Herd to another solid season, a year after she tied a school record with nine shutouts as Marshall went 10-7-3 and won a conference tournament game for the first time in the program’s 17-year history.
The 5-foot-11 Kish won the keeper starting job in August camp a year ago after two years of idle time. She had suffered a torn left ACL four days into her freshman (2011) camp, underwent surgery, then not only struggled to cope with wearing a brace. Kish also strained ligaments in her right thumb, and wore a cast into her second season.
“I really was surprised at my success (last season) and at the team’s success, too,” Kish said earlier this week as the Herd opened camp and preparations for Thursday’s exhibition opener against fifth-ranked Virginia Tech at the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex. “I knew we could go places, but since we made history, going as far as we did (a Conference USA Tournament win), that was an awesome feeling – and I’d like to repeat it.
“I think the team surprised me the most, how they played in front of me, which was great, and how we molded so quickly because it was my first year playing. We just really bonded and had good chemistry. And I think some of that is because we’re good off the field together, friends and stuff, and so the combination really helped push us to success.”
Kish, of Boyertown, Pa., wiped out two years of personal frustration in 2013. Now, she is the preseason All-C-USA first team keeper as selected by College Sports Madness. Long admits he didn’t see any of that coming.
“I was pleasantly surprised; it was a drastic improvement,” Long said about Kish’s 2013 play. “She was a bit of an unknown because she was injured so early, and so we didn’t know what we had. Year 1 goes, Year 2, watching her find her legs at times, and literally it was tough to watch sometimes because she was so uncomfortable in her knee brace, so uneasy trying to find her athleticism and balance again.
“Then, when she came back out again this time last year, she broke through. There was newfound strength, and it was really kind of alarming because it was so different to what we were used to. When she did extraordinarily well for us in goal, broke records, in back of a great defense …
“If you’d asked us more than a year ago, we’d really have scoffed at it. She’s going to carry us into the conference tournament?”
Kish became a keeper for the Herd thanks mostly to her work ethic. She became a weight room regular, and while soccer goalkeepers aren’t known for running as much as their teammates, this one did.
“Coming in at this time last year, I knew I’d definitely have to compete for my position,” Kish said. “As a team, we had just come off a pretty good season and had good numbers coming back, so I knew I wanted to be overprepared to come in and give it my all for my team.
“I started feeling better about it at the beginning of (last) summer, when I got out of my brace. I stuck around here, worked with the trainers and our weight coach (Joe Varga). I lifted, I ran, got in shape. I lifted three times a week, ran five times a week. I just worked hard at it.
“I did feel good coming into camp but I still knew I’d have to compete for the job and really use all of my hard work and show that I had worked hard and was ready to do the job.”
Kish made all 20 starts for the Herd, playing a Herd record 1,878 minutes in goal. She allowed only 18 goals, and her 0.86 goals-against average ranked third in C-USA.
“It’s a testament to Lizzie,” said Long, entering his seventh season as the Herd coach. “She put her head down and got to work. Her confidence and drive and will … What she did past year was she won the team over. She said I want to play. When she was injured, on the bench, the comments we heard, we felt like she could be a leader out there if she got onto the field, a driven competitor, fierce, and the team has responded to playing in front of her.”
Long recounted a day when Varga had the soccer team on a clock in the weight room, counting reps for each player. The Herd coach said where some among the Herd did 10 or 15 reps, Kish did an eye-opening 30.
“The intensity of her work rate was such that we quickly as coaches paid attention to that,” Long said. “We, as a team, needed that intensity. Without a doubt won the job in camp last year. There’s not an off switch. She’s always on and every ball that goes past her, she’s unhappy.
“We have practice activities not designed for ego, the purpose is for our forwards to find the goal, not for the keepers to get stops. They’re rapid things, and it’s hard for keepers to get positioned well. It’s not about her, but Kish is there worried about giving away opportunities for a stop.”
Kish, 21 and an elementary education major, said she is on track for a May graduation, but intends to stay in the soccer program in 2015 and work on her master’s degree. On the field, she is looking for another C-USA Tournament berth.
C-USA coaches recently put the Herd seventh among 14 teams in the league’s preseason poll. The Herd keeper sees that as a bit low.
“I really expect us to make an appearance in the tournament again, hopefully play our best there,” Kish said. “I expect us to get lot of wins and really be a powerhouse in the conference. I think seventh is (low). I think people in the conference are starting to get worried about us, and they’d like to keep us down there because it’s like, ‘They’re still not there yet,’ but hopefully this season we’ll change their minds.”
Long said Kish’s biggest strength is her playmaking ability.
“I think we could go and find keepers with more technical ability than Lizzie, but I’m not sure where those keepers would stack up with Lizzie in her will and drive to keep the ball out of the net,” the Marshall coach said. “That’s been a strong component of her ability for us. There’s no complacency in games or training. She’s fearless, want to be technically accurate.
“One thing I think she did better than maybe any other keeper in the conference is coming off her line on crosses and was kind of able to clean up the situation before it became a problem. And that’s really hard. When Dan (Withrow, now in MLS) was here on the men’s team a few years ago, he had this huge size, huge span, covered a lot of space.
“Well, Kish covers a lot of space, and she’s great at finding a place where she can connect with the ball in a crowd, versus waiting for that crowd to win the ball, then respond.”
Kish said it all came together for her and the Herd at the start of last season, when the team and program were buoyed by the grand opening of Marshall’s new soccer home, the Veterans Memorial Complex.
“I would say the biggest thing is always working hard for my team,” Kish said when asked what is crucial for her as a keeper. “They’re always working hard for me so I need to give it back to them.
“In spring, we had a goal. Mine was on every play, make an action, make a play. Sometimes goalkeepers get caught standing there and people are like, ‘Why didn’t you do anything?’ So, I decided my goal this year will be, on every shot, I want to make a play on the ball.