The goalkeeper in soccer is like the quarterback in football. They are supposed to have superior field vision and the ability to communicate effectively with teammates so they can effectively distribute the ball, ultimately calling the plays from the defensive zone. First-year goalkeeper Annalena Kriebisch excels in all of these areas.
Kriebisch was groomed by German soccer programs. For five years she played for the Turbine Potsdam Bundesliga North club — one of the most successful clubs in Germany — and with them won the U17 German National Championship. She was a member of the German U17 National Team and for seven years was an all-region selection.
Flash forward to the 2016 season and Kriebisch emerges as the University of Maine’s first-string goalkeeper. She has logged three shutouts, faced 39 shots on net this season and has stopped 34 of them. Kriebisch’s .71 goals against average leads the America East league. Kriebisch’s .872 save percentage also leads America East. And she is only a freshman.
Most first-year students have trouble getting used to the swing of college, struggling early to adjust to the speed of the next level, but not Kriebisch. Her teammates have taken note of her unusual ability to take control.
“Even though she is only a freshman, she commands the back line and comes up with huge saves to keep us in the game,” third-year midfielder Kendra Ridley said.
Three games this season have been decided by a single goal, so the pressure goalkeepers play under is impressive. The pressure makes Kriebisch tough. The fact that Kriebisch has played in every minute of the 2016 season is certainly a testament to her ability to dig deep and keep fighting.
“She consistently fights through the pain and leaves everything on the field,” Ridley continued.
Kriebisch is one of the 13 freshmen on the team this year. Of the 18 players that are in active rotations for games, nine of them are first-year players. Head Coach Scott Atherley is thrilled yet reserved.
“There are so many variables that influence the performance of a new player and most of them have nothing to do with soccer,” Atherley explained.
For freshmen, they are not just adjusting to the speed of soccer at the next level, they are adjusting to the speed of college life. They have to balance tests, meeting new people and their newfound independence. Kriebisch manages it well and Atherley attributes it to her former soccer experiences in Germany.
“She has been in an environment where their way of business is entirely professional,” Atherley said. “She has really good habits as a result from growing up in that environment. She is a very disciplined person by nature. She is very organized.”
This ease of transition is evidenced by Kriebisch’s five goals against statistic. Kriebisch has obviously not skipped a beat.
Kriebisch’s offensive counterparts also appreciate her consistency.
“She gives us security in the back,” second-year forward Vivien Beil praised, “and she is able to distribute balls fast which improves our offensive play.”
Those graduating are happy Kriebisch is here to anchor the team for future seasons.
“She is always laughing which can really lighten the mood of everyone,” fourth-year Hannah Lipinski said. “She is also always a positive person and works hard in everything she does.”
Lipinski is one of the three graduating seniors this season. It’s a bittersweet moment for those leaving the program, but at least they can rest easy knowing Kriebisch is holding the reins for years to come.
Kriebisch expects nothing but the best from herself and her team.
When asked what her goal was for the team, she responded, “winning the America East conference. My personal goal, I wanna save as many shots on goal as possible, be the best goalkeeper in the conference/have the best record for goalkeeper in the conference.”
Kriebisch has her eyes set on the end of the season, to avenge last year’s playoff loss versus Hartford. Atherley has different objective in mind.
“Our expectation is we want to show improvement on a daily basis,” Atherley detailed. “If we are focusing on our performance rather than outcome the outcome is going to take care of itself.”
One thing is for certain however: with Kriebisch on the backstop, there is no telling how deep Maine could go in the playoffs this year and for many years to come.