Freshman Goalie Proving Herself
Arkansas true freshman goalkeeper Emily Lillard has had her ups and downs this season, but her impressive start to Southeastern Conference play has played a large role in the Razorbacks’ 2-0 start.
The 18-year-old Overland Park, Ks., native was tasked with replacing Britni Williams, Arkansas’ career leader in goalie wins, shutouts and goal average against. She allowed just one goal in the Razorbacks’ SEC-opening wins over Ole Miss and Mississippi State Friday and Sunday, respectively.
“We have complete confidence in Emily,” Arkansas coach Erin Aubry said. “She is young, but that is this team. She is learning from the best and she is only going to continue to improve each and every week.”
Lillard has accounted for 47 saves this season and is averaging 5.2 saves per game, while playing 767 of 812 minutes this year. She has allowed 21 goals on the season, an average of 2.46 per game.
Lillard was a highly-recruited high school prospect out of Overland Park High School, where she led her team to the school’s first Class 6A state title. In high school, Lillard earned NSCAA All-American and first-team all-state honors as a senior.
She struggled at times prior to SEC play, giving up four goals in losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State, five against Colorado College. She stepped up in the opening weekend of conference play, though, recording three saves against the Rebels and eight against the Bulldogs.
“We definitely need to focus on how good we can be on defense,” Aubry said. “The talent is there in our defense, and our goal keeper especially.”
Lillard was crucial in the Razorbacks’ (4-6, 2-0) ability to start conference play unbeaten.
“Emily’s play was huge this weekend,” Aubry said. “She’s been making some great saves and this is really something she’s been working towards.”
The Razorbacks had lost five of six games before starting conference play.
“This is our changing point in the season,” Lillard said. “We know we have the talent and the ability to win.”
Lillard earned the starting role, beating out senior Kendal Winston. The competition hasn’t affected the relationship between the goalies, Lillard said.
“My role model on the team is probably Kendal Winston who is another keeper,” Lillard said. “She always has me going during practice, she never gives up on her team, and she is a leader all over the field—even when she’s on the sideline.”
Lillard had to adjust to college quickly after being put in one of the most critical positions on the team.
“This season is very different from high school,” Lillard said. “You have to play your best at all times and fight for every win.”