By Kyle LoJacono
Successful teams need stars, but role players are also a must to make squads function.
For the Steinbrenner girls soccer team, one of those players is Eleanor Wilson.
Wilson had been a midfielder/defender since picking up the sport in fifth grade with a recreational team at Hillsborough County United. She planned on doing the same when she joined the Warriors as a junior, but an opening in net arose.
Courtney Keene, who was the starting goalkeeper in 2009-10, quit in part because she was going to spend her senior season backing up Stephanie Hirsch. Former coach Robert Woodard turned to Wilson to fill the void.
“He said to me, ‘You’re really tall, have you ever played goalkeeper before?’” Wilson said. “I didn’t even own goalie gloves and didn’t even know how to put goalie gloves on. It’s really tough if you don’t know how, because I’d put the right one on first because I’m right-handed, and then it’s hard to pull the other one on. Steph had to teach me how.”
Hirsch took Wilson under her wing.
“She came up to me and said, ‘Steph, you’re going to have to take me on the weekend and train me because I have no idea what I’m doing,’” Hirsch said. “That whole last season we went to the school every weekend, and I taught her everything that I knew. She’s turned into a pretty solid keeper.”
Hirsch had played against Wilson in club a few times, but didn’t know her until they were both on Steinbrenner’s team. She said Wilson’s willingness to do whatever is needed for the team is inspirational.
“That’s the kind of player you bring on a team to make a team a team,” Hirsch said. “They’re willing to sacrifice something they love for the better of the team. I couldn’t ask for a better friend, and she’s a friend of everyone on this team, no doubt.”
Wilson played in seven games last year, including four starts. She finished with 21 saves and three shutouts.
She’s been called into action even more this year, starting district games against Gaither and Sickles, which the Warriors won 4-0 and 7-1. Wilson has played in nine games, seven starts, with 13 saves and two shutouts.
Wilson has found herself in the net, but she said she still doesn’t enjoy the position.
“I do it because coach needs me,” Wilson said. “Steph is at away tournaments, and she puts her everything into games and she gets hurt because of it. She plays through the pain, but sometimes she can’t. I know that the team needs me there.”
Wilson has the disadvantage of having what she calls “really bad vision,” which prevents her from reading jersey numbers or recognizing faces in the field.
“When I punt the ball I always tell the girls I’m looking for Dani Eule because she has red hair, and I can see that,” Wilson said. “I can’t see faces, I can’t see numbers, but I can see her hair.”
First-year Steinbrenner coach Angela Gillisse said Wilson has other duties along with filling a team need.
“She is very thoughtful and knows what to say if someone is having a bad day,” Gillisse said. “She’s just a really good kid.”
Part of picking teammates up includes having a steady supply of snickerdoodles.
“We have a joke on the team that my house is a snickerdoodle factory,” Wilson said. “I don’t even like them anymore, but the girls like them. This year one girl on the team was having a bad day, so I went home, made snickerdoodles for her and had them delivered to her class.”
She isn’t completely comfortable at the position, but Wilson has taken to the roles of backup goalkeeper, morale booster and true team player.
“I would prefer to be a field player, but at the end of the day goalie is where my team needs me,” Wilson said. “Halfway through junior year I learned I didn’t want to play college soccer, so I devoted myself to being a better goalie because it would help the team.”
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