Women’s soccer goalkeeper Ani Nahapetian was the standout player during a game against Marist College with six second-half saves, making her The Brown and White’s Athlete of the Week.
Although freshman Nahapetian has only just entered the Lehigh community, she is already making an impact on the program. Originally a Northern California native, Nahapetian was recruited while playing as a high school athlete at a national tournament in Seattle.
Last year, she came to Lehigh’s soccer camp to show off her goalkeeping prowess before choosing to commit. A coaching change that brought current women’s Assistant Coach Amy Houghonto the staff forced Nahapetian to demonstrate her skills in order to keep her previously scouted place on Lehigh’s roster.
In comparison to her fellow student-athletes, Nahapetian said she was late in the game in regard to committing to Lehigh. Generally, the most competitive athletes know where they’re going to college years in advance. She also said that she came to Lehigh to watch the team play several other games after committing to the Mountain Hawks.
In her second performance as a Hawk, Nahapetian has already earned her spot on the team’s roster. In the Hawks’ game versus Marist College, which entered the game with a record of 5-2 on the season, Nahapetian proved she’s already more than comfortable playing in brown and white.
Opportunities certainly haven’t been handed to her, though. She’s had to fight her way for a spot in between the pipes.
“I’ve really had to work my way into playing time,” she said. “It makes sense because I’m a freshman, so I have to prove myself. I have to earn my spot.”
The morning of the Marist game, Nahapetian said she was called into the coaches’ office and informed that she would be playing in the game.
“The coaches asked me to come in and said that I’d be splitting time for that game,” she said. “I felt like this was my opportunity to prove myself.”
Balancing classes with athletics has proven to be less of a challenge than expected for the freshman, who is already thinking she wants to major in bioengineering. But she’s proud to see a lifetime of dedication and work pay off.
Nahapetian has played soccer ever since she was a kid, choosing to follow her passion all the way to college.
“Being a goalkeeper has really been drilled into me,” she said.
She added that having played for so long has put her in different types of situations that have allowed her to grow as a player. At this point, her reactions in goal are completely natural.
“Having played for so long, I just let instincts take over during the game,” she said. “For me it’s really a process of almost not thinking about the game,” she said. “If I start thinking about the game I’ll get nervous and I won’t do well. I just shut everything else out and play.”
Though the team hasn’t had the start they’d like, Nahapetian remains optimistic about the rest of the season. Not only do the Hawks have a young team, she explained, but they also have a lot of talent that they haven’t quite figured out how to mold together yet. She mentioned that coming in as a new player has been an opportunity for her to really get to know the players around her.
Even more than that, though, she added that the team has been focusing on playing in the short run.
“What really works for our team is taking it one game at a time,” she said. “By only focusing on one game, we can prepare for a single upcoming team. We definitely have practices geared toward getting ready to play specific teams, but we just take the games individually for the most part.”
Nahapetian continued to emphasize the importance of individual preparation for games.
“We have scouting reports for all of the other teams, but we don’t even look at those until we’ve finished the game before and are ready to look ahead,” she said. “That’s what the coaches take care of.”
“It’s about learning everyone’s strengths,” she said. “We just have to learn how to use each player to their full potential.”
Story by Brown and White sports writer Christina Cavanaugh, ’14.