Apprentice grasps role as netminder
The first time Emmy Simpkins took the field as a goalkeeper, she was just 11 years old and forced into net by her head coach to assume the duties of an injured teammate.
Now, with former All-American goalkeeper Erin Guthrie out of the picture, Simpkins is once again responsible to man the net, now for the Rutgers women's soccer team.
But this time, the junior netminder is not in net by default.
"I didn't want to — I was kind of chosen to," Simpkins said of her start. "I was one of the larger kids, our goalkeeper got hurt and they threw me in. I guess I did really well so they kept me there, so I grew to like it, then grew to love it and now I'm stuck game."
The greatest proof of Simpkins' growth may have been in the Knights' 1-0 loss to No. 6 UCLA on Sunday in Los Angeles.
The Bruins fired 20 shots at the Northwest Caburrus (N.C.) High School product, but Simpkins made a career-high 12 saves to keep the game in reach.
With her 18 starts last season, combined with experience from games against teams like No. 10 Boston College, Loyola Marymount and UCLA, Simpkins seems to be settling in nicely for Crooks.
Through the Knights' first five contests, Simpkins boasts a goals-against average of .78 and a save percentage of .862, leading her head coach to believe his keeper is ready for the challenge.
"We've been blessed with our goalkeeping, with Erin for the four years and Emmy getting tutored under Erin," Crooks said. "Now Emmy's ready for the level."