The 3rd Man In

Anderson expects to continue high level of play

Last season the Milwaukee Panthers men’s soccer program created quite a buzz on campus. Milwaukee fans were revealing their Panther pride as they boasted about the team’s successful season that included a trip to the NCAA tournament, Panther stud Laurie Ball developing in to one of the country’s top soccer players, and freshman dynamo goalkeeper Liam Anderson.

Anderson somehow managed to fly under the radar despite his historic season. The Panthers’ goalie, a recruit from the other side of the planet, was a virtual unknown. The New Zealander earned a start in Milwaukee’s first game of the season against Marquette, and fans started to take notice. In Anderson’s first collegiate start, the pressure was on him to perform well as the Panthers went head-to-head with #12 Marquette. Anderson went on to record a season-high six saves in the game, while allowing only one goal to help Milwaukee reclaim the Milwaukee Cup. His efforts even earned him Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week.

Anderson continued to perform at an extremely high level the rest of the season, playing every minute in goal for the Panthers. He finished the 2013 campaign with one of the most successful goalkeeping seasons in school history. His 0.63 goals-against average was third best in program history, while his 10 shutouts finished tied for first. His 15 victories also placed him second all-time.

Not only did Anderson’s season rank up with some of the best goalies to ever suit up for the Black and Gold, but he also lead the Horizon League in saves (68), save percentage (.840), shutouts and goals against average.

Most would have thought that these outstanding numbers, along with the team’s success, would earn him some end of the season conference accolades. But unfortunately that wasn’t the case. While captain Laurie Bell expressed that Anderson was undervalued last season, Anderson was more understanding of why he didn’t receive any personal awards.

“To be fair I think our backline was really good,” Anderson said. “A lot of the success would actually go to all five of us I feel. I don’t think I did that amazing. I think the clean sheets were a lot to do with the back four we had last year.”

Last season the backline consisted of three experienced seniors, Andrew Stone, Aaron Cranfill and Austin Toth, along with talented freshman Junior Juarez. Senior James Ashcroft also received some minutes defensively, although he mostly played offense in his final year with the Panthers.

Anderson is a team guy, and it was a collective effort by the defense to shut down opposing offensive attacks. Anderson, however, was the last guy in the line of defense, and made crucial saves when the Panthers need it most. It is a disappointment that the coaches around the league didn’t see the value Anderson brought to the Panthers, but Anderson still enjoyed last season and wants to be even better this year.

“It was a great season, and probably the most fun I have ever had playing fútbol in my whole life,” Anderson said. “I can’t wait to start playing every minute of the season just like that if not better.”

With the departures of Stone, Cranfill and Toth to graduation and Juarez moving back home to New Mexico, there will be some challenges for the Panthers’ defense despite Anderson now having a year of experience under his belt.

The defense is expected to have seniors Luke Goodnetter and Dustin Ashley earning a majority of the minutes at two of the four positions, but none of the players who are expected to play defensively have a lot of experience playing along side one another.

“It’s a lot harder this season because last season everyone some what knew each other coming into the preseason,” said Anderson. “So far our back four has looked pretty good. They just got to get use to playing with each other, and just keep working and communicating with each other. And hopefully get better and better.”

Head coach Kris Kelderman knows the defense is a work in progress, and said that everyone has to get a little more familiar with playing along side one another.

However, Kelderman is not worried about his young goalie. In fact, he expects Anderson to be even better this season than last.

“Are goal is to get better at everything we do. He had a good season last year, and we expect him to build on that and be better,” said Kelderman. “We are in a good situation in the goal.”

It will not be easy for Anderson to repeat the historic numbers he had a season ago, but with the work he put in this offseason, there is no reason to believe that he is unable of performing at an extremely high level once again.

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