Chartiers Valley grad Allie Ball excels in new role on defense for Robert Morris women’s soccer
When it comes to playing defense on the soccer pitch, Allie Ball still is relatively new. Gifted with natural speed, she spent most of her youth as a striker and midfielder.
It wasn’t until the latter part of her time with the Chartiers Valley varsity that she moved to defense.
Her relative neophyte status as a defender didn’t hinder her during her freshman season at Robert Morris. She started every game for the Colonials (6-12, 4-4 Northeast Conference) and was second on the team in minutes played. She played every minute of all but two games, helping RMU post three shutouts and a 1.61 goals-against average, down a tick from 1.65 the season before.
Ball earned a spot on the NEC All-Rookie team for her performance.
“My first season, I was just expecting to grow,” the rising sophomore said. “I wasn’t expecting much of anything except to put in work. Becoming a starter and having a big role on the team … was a huge shock to me.”
She admitted to being disappointed when she was moved to defense in high school. The players who score the goals, after all, grab most of the headlines.
But she has learned to embrace her role and got a shot of confidence after her successful freshman season at Robert Morris.
“The amount of times my teammates and coaches have said great things about me and what I was doing,” she said, “I felt like I was still a huge player even though I wasn’t in a role that gets most of the spotlight.”
Rising junior keeper Sydney Bruckner benefited directly from Ball’s performance. She said Ball’s success can be attributed to more than speed.
“She has a real love and passion for the game, and that really translates onto the field,” Bruckner said. “She puts her heart out there every game and plays her hardest no matter what, and that translates to other players on the field.
“I was really confident knowing she was in front of me.”
Ball and the defense played their best toward the end of the season, helping the Colonials win three of their final four matches and post a 1.00 goals-against average in that stretch. One of those wins was a 2-0 triumph of St. Francis (Pa.), which finished second in the NEC and was runner-up in the conference tournament.
Last season, coach John Kowalski had two other freshmen — Jaiden Williams and Courtney Hurey — also playing significant minutes on defense, and it took them time to jell with seniors Samantha Lackner and Anni Varjonen and junior Megan Dinatale. Ball said it took several matches for her to settle in.
“I was really in my head,” she said. “The nerves really did get to me my first few games. My teammates were really helpful getting me through everything. I was able to calm down. I was able not to think so much and just play the game.”
With her doubts cast aside and a year of experience under her belt, Ball is hoping for an even better sophomore season. The defense corps figures to be even younger with the graduation of Lackner, Varjonen and reserve Victoria Kraemer.
That will put more onus on Ball if the Colonials hope to contend for a spot in the conference tournament. But it is a burden Bruckner said she is capable of handling.
“Having Allie in the middle of it, I feel like she made the defense come together. She has amazing skill on the ball and also her leadership. We all see it and respect her for it.
“As we see her passion and love, it makes us confident in her, and we trust her. I can really see her being a captain in a couple of years.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .