Senior goalkeeper Elyssa Kipperman of the Sacred Heart University women’s soccer team is having a career year, with eight shutouts already this season, placing her among the top goalies in all of the NCAA.
Kipperman has played every minute of SHU’s 15 games, posting a 8-5-3 record. With her goaltending, the Pioneers went on an eight-game unbeaten streak, the longest in program history. They are 4-1-2 in Northeast Conference (NEC) play, good for third place.
“I want to win the [NEC] tournament,” said Kipperman. “I’m ready for a ring on this finger. I think we can make it happen.”
Kipperman and others in her class are part of a rebuilding program that started about four years ago. They are just starting to see the results from their hard work. According to Kipperman, something feels different about the team this season compared to previous years.
“We got in our heads a lot,” she said. “We’d go a goal down or make mistakes and it was really tough to come back.”
In her fourth year at SHU, Kipperman acknowledges that the team isn’t the only change that affects her game.
“I definitely think I’m more confident on and off the field,” she said. “Confidence is key, so I’ve been able to step on the field like I’m a leader and be confident in my abilities and my teammates to stop the ball from even coming to me.”
Even with the added confidence to her game, Kipperman still has her superstitious traditions that she likes to stick to before every game. These routines are crucial to keeping her locked in on the field.
“Every morning before a game I gotta eat my egg sandwich,” she said. “That’s very important to me.”
Other pregame rituals include wearing the same clothes with her uniform, even down to the same color of pre-wrap. After stepping onto the field, she takes a few hops to center her mindset on the game ahead.
Her performance on the field is not the only aspect at SHU in which Kipperman excels. She finished her undergraduate studies in three years with a degree in exercise science and is now pursuing a master’s degree in exercise and sports science. When not playing soccer, she is a research assistant for the women’s basketball team.
“Even though you’re playing Division I soccer, you can still do well in school,” said Kipperman. “I’d say that’s pretty cool to be able to say that I literally graduated college in three years while playing a sport and juggling social life and mental health and all that stuff.”
Mental health, especially in college athletes, is a topic that is close to Kipperman’s heart. Her own personal struggles have given her insight into how athletes are feeling on and off the field.
“It’s okay if you’re not okay,” she said. “I’ve had situations where you could see it on the field for me and getting through that is tough. But we have the resources, you just gotta keep going.”
Kipperman reflects on her more than 15 years playing soccer as she enters the last part of her NCAA career.
“My goalie coach used to say the goal chooses you,” she said. “Since then, it’s just been my calling.”
Even through all the success she has faced this season, she continues to have a humble mindset.
“There’s a lot of people in this world that don’t get to do what I do,” said Kipperman. “I’m playing for the little girl that was standing in the back of the net as a kid, playing for all the little girls out there that can’t do this.”
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.
Photo: Grace Hand