A student-athlete usually only gets four years to leave a mark on a program. Halfway through her junior season, goalkeeper Jill Flietstra is inching closer to becoming one of the best goalies in MSU women’s soccer history and leaving her own mark.
With just one season as a starter under her belt, and halfway through her second, Flietstra already exhibits qualities that only a few former MSU goalkeepers ever have, head coach Tom Saxton said.
“She is just a gamer and that demeanor and that confidence spreads throughout the team and sets the tone at the beginning,” Saxton said.
“She’s special. In all the years I’ve coached, few keepers — and we’ve had some really good ones here — have come with that presence on the field.”
In six of eight games this season, the Spartans’ opponents have posted goose eggs.
The Hudsonville, Mich., native doesn’t credit her own performance, but rather gives all the praise to her teammates, especially the defense.
“I’ve done well in my moments, but I think the shutouts are just a credit to our team defense,” Flietstra said.
After 20 seasons as the Spartans’ head coach, Saxton said he ranks only a few MSU goalkeepers above Flietstra right now, the best being current assistant coach Stacy Heller. However, with a season and a half still left in her career, Flietstra is approaching some of her coach’s records and could take that title.
“Jill — with a year and a half to go in her career — I think absolutely can go down as the best keeper we’ve ever had here,” Saxton said. “It’s still to be determined but she’s certainly moving that way.”
In 2009, Flietstra was third in the Big Ten with seven shutouts. This season, she already has recorded six and is halfway to the MSU single-season record, which is 12, set in 2005.
The junior goalkeeper doesn’t like to brag about her stats, but senior midfielder and co-captain Cara Freeman said the team wouldn’t have the same identity without her.
“Jill’s presence back there is huge for us,” Freeman said. “She is a central component to the team and one of the big components on the team that is always consistent. It gives us the opportunity not to worry (with her in the net) because she is very good.”
Last season, Flietstra also finished third in the Big Ten in saves (92) and second in save percentage (.836). However, she said that is overshadowed by the deeper bonds she’s made with her teammates.
“The back line and me have just become a family and that relationship is something that has become really crucial to our success,” she said.
Saxton said Flietstra’s contributions don’t just come on the field. When she’s not in uniform she is influencing the team.
“She’s just a good person with a good view of life,” he said. “She’s fairly low-key and always positive and enjoys life on a day-to-day basis.”
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