Plum's Chelsea Hubner finds surprising home at West Virginia Wesleyan
It often has been said the right one will come along when one least expects it. That turned out to be the case for 2016 Plum graduate Chelsea Hubner, but also for West Virginia Wesleyan women's soccer coach Patrick Holguin.
Holguin wasn't in the market for a goalkeeper when he sat in on an early fall 2015 soccer match to scout Plum's opponent. Hubner wasn't looking at schools, having already settled on continuing her soccer career at Clarion. But all of that changed when Holguin spotted the 5-foot-8 goalkeeper.
“We were at a WPIAL high school game, and we were looking at players on the other team, that was the beginning of her senior year, and she had made some great saves,” said Holguin, who just finished his seventh season as Bobcat coach. “She was in command of her team and in command of her goal box. We started to pursue her pretty aggressive after that.”
All it took to sway Hubner away from Clarion was a two-and-half hour trip south to the Buckhannon, W.Va., university where Hubner was smitten by the campus' autumn foliage and the women's soccer team.
“I really fell in love with the campus at first,” Hubner said. “I think I came at a really good time. It was fall, and the campus was really beautiful here. I felt like every person that I met here was really genuine and nice to me.”
What is genuine is Hubner's performance between the poles as one of the Bobcats starting goalkeepers this season. Hubner, along with freshman goalkeeper Ashlee Shumacher, formed a one-two punch that gave opponents fits.
Hubner started the second half of games not because she wasn't a good starter but because she knew how to finish games. She gave up four goals and fished her sophomore campaign with a 0.49 goals-against average and a .909 saves percentage.
“She's become a better leader and a better communicator,” Holguin said. “She's built her relationships with the team.”
Hubner's numbers were much improved from her freshman season, when she gave up seven goals and turned in a .883 saves percentage in 15 starts.
Holguin said he likes Hubner's attitude. She not only is well adjusted to her role but also has a poise and confidence that won the respect of her coaches and the hearts of her teammates.
“I don't think (Holguin) really saw me coming at first, and he was set with the other goalkeeper,” Hubner said. “I think what may have intrigued him at first is how much I communicated with my team. (Communicating) keeps me in the game, and it also lets my players know I'm there.”
After claiming the Mountain East Conference championship with a 1-0 win over Notre Dame (Ohio), West Virginia Wesleyan sailed into the NCAA Division II bracket. It beat Gannon, 2-0, in the first round of the Atlantic Region.
Hubner said her best performance of the season came in the regional semifinal game against East Stroudsburg in a 0-0 double-overtime loss. The game came down to penalty kicks, where East Stroudsburg outscored the Bobcats, 4-3.
“I felt like that was one of the best performances I've had during this season and accomplished a lot,” Hubner said. “I did everything I could possibly do to get my team through to the next round.”
Holguin agreed: “When it comes to penalty kicks, she's always my goalkeeper. She's athletic, and she's quicker.”
With Hubner's skill and experience, Holguin expects his closer to take the next step in her development and become a leader.
“Chelsea doesn't really need a lot of work — its just leadership,” Holguin said. “She has top-of-the-line character, and that's what attractive to us.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.