Allegheny's Thiessen aiming for encore to stellar freshman season
Members of the Allegheny women's soccer team had just arrived on campus last week when coach Michael Webber approached sophomore Jessie Thiessen. Webber wanted to make sure his top player was ready to tackle a season of new challenges.
Thiessen, a Fox Chapel graduate, led the Gators and the conference in goals (11) and points (28) to earn North Coast Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year honors as well as a spot on the NCAC first team. This year, she'll garner a lot more attention from the opposition.
Additionally, the Gators return a team loaded with underclassmen who will be looking to defend an NCAC title.
“I'm not a freshman anymore, so I'm hoping to pick it up to the next level,” said Thiessen, also a defender on the Allegheny women's lacrosse team. “I just made sure I came in in shape and ... do everything I can to be ready.
“I don't want to look at last year and take it for granted. I want to prove myself again.”
Webber knew he was getting a talent in Thiessen after watching her during her sophomore year at Fox Chapel. But Webber could not have predicted the outburst she had as a college freshman.
She scored her first goal in her second game. Then, against nationally ranked Johns Hopkins two matches later, Webber watched Thiessen turn the corner on the Blue Jays' left outside back and send a shot on goal.
That's when he knew her season could be special.
“That's an exceptional season for any player, let alone a first-year player coming in,” Webber said. “She puts herself in perfect situations. She does those little things. But if you get her one on one on the flank, she's going to get to the goal, and she's going to finish.”
During lacrosse season, Thiessen's primary job is to prevent goals rather than score them — though she tallied four goals last year. She started 10 of the Gators' 17 matches on defense, and being on that side of the action, she said, helps her in soccer.
One of the areas she would like to see her soccer improve is on defense. She said body positioning is similar in both sports, and on defense, she's able to see gaps, passing lanes and other subtleties she might otherwise miss.
And though she describes herself as “busier than most people,” she sees playing two sports as a benefit.
“I think it helps me academic-wise because I'm on a set schedule, and it keeps me focused,” she said. “It keeps me more organized.”
Keeping the team organized also might be on her agenda. Given the success she had last year and the number of young players on the Gators' roster, Thiessen is preparing to take on more of a leadership role.
Part of that is knowing she doesn't have to carry the team. She knows she will be expected to score, no doubt, but she also knows she has plenty of help.
“I try not to put too much pressure on myself because I think if I get too nervous about it I won't play as well,” she said. “But it's not just me. It's the whole team. I'm really confident that any girl on this team can score the goals. It's a team sport, and that's what I love about it.”
Chuck Curti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.