Heading into the season, Courtney Clem was the No. 1 goalkeeper for the MSU women’s soccer team.
With just six games remaining on the schedule and an important Big Ten match against Ohio State on Saturday, the junior goalkeeper will be competing in practice this week to keep the top spot with sophomore goalkeeper Gabrielle Gauruder.
Two weeks ago against Minnesota, Clem had what head coach Tom Saxton said was her best game of her career. The Spartans won, 3-0, and Clem made 12 saves, including numerous big stops to pick up her sixth career shutout en route to MSU’s first Big Ten win.
Two days later, however, Clem gave up two goals against Wisconsin. Clem had another rough outing against archrival Michigan giving up two quick goals in the first 15 minutes of the game. She lasted less than 25 minutes before Saxton replaced Clem in favor of Gauruder.
“(Courtney Clem) is a fine keeper and she had a great game against Minnesota,” Saxton said, following the 2-1 loss to Michigan. “Unfortunately she had … what I would call tough plays the last two games in a row, and Gabby (Gauruder) has become a lot better keeper in the past year.”
MSU then traveled to Iowa on Sunday and Saxton decided it was time to give Gauruder a starting shot.
Iowa got off 23 shots, and Gauruder made a career-high 11 saves in a physical match against a hard-nosed Hawkeye team. Earlier in the year, Gauruder started three games when Clem was out because of a concussion. Gauruder filled in and led MSU to three consecutive wins before Clem came back for Iowa.
Both players also said having both goalkeepers competing for the top spot helps out the team. Clem said heading into Ohio State, the team and both keepers need to keep improving if the Spartans want to achieve their goal of reaching the Big Ten Tournament.
“Competition makes you fight harder,” Clem said. “We have to be resilient, and that’s one of the things we wear on our backs every day.”
To date, Gauruder currently has the edge in multiple statistical categories, but has only played half the amount of minutes than Clem. Gauruder has a save percentage of 87 percent compared to Clem’s 82 percent.
Gauruder also has an .87 goals against average compared to Clem’s 1.11 goals against average.
Though Saxton said this week of practice will determine who will start for Ohio State, he said having two capable goalies with game experience is a positive.
“We do have two really good goalies with different strengths and weaknesses,” Saxton said. “Courtney has a little more experience in overall game management, and I think she has an edge in the air game. Gabby can be a little quicker on shot stopping.”
Sophomore forward Allyson Krause said despite the midseason goalkeeper battle, the team knows having two goalkeepers can help the team when one of them has an off day.
“It’s definitely a great feeling just because one can step up for the team, (and) obviously, the other one can step up for the team when needed,” Krause said.
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