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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Timing is everything for freshman Meredith Reinhardt’s journey to becoming a Wildcat

Arizona+goalkeeper+Meredith+Reinhardt+%280%29+blocks+a+shot+by+Utah+Valley+University+at+Murphey+Field+at+Mulcahy+Soccer+Stadium+on+Sunday%2C+Aug.+21%2C+2016.+The+Arizona+Wildcats+won+against+the+Utah+Valley+Wolverines+with+a+score+of+5-1.
Alex McIntyre
Arizona goalkeeper Meredith Reinhardt (0) blocks a shot by Utah Valley University at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016. The Arizona Wildcats won against the Utah Valley Wolverines with a score of 5-1.

The timing was everything. 

Meredith Reinhardt had just re-opened her recruitment and Arizona needed a goalkeeper.

The Wildcats’ formidable goalkeeping duo of Lainey Burdett and Rachel Estopare had been split up as the latter, looking for more playing time, transferred out of the program.

Meanwhile, Stony Brook, the school which Reinhardt was originally committed to, made a coaching change, giving Reinhardt second thoughts about her commitment.

“It’s funny how things work out,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato said. “We went after her hard at the point when she said she’s opening up her search again.”

Amato’s reasoning was simple:

“We did that because we believed that, if anything happened to Lainey, [Reinhardt] could step in and help us,” he said.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Three days before Arizona’s season opener at Pepperdine, Burdett was ruled out for the game due to an illness and Reinhardt, being next in line, was named the starter.

“It was nerve-wracking to be honest,” she said. “I was excited at first and then I [realized] this is my first college game. I have been training, I have been doing all the reps that Lainey has. But at the same time, it’s been a mental thing. [Burdett has] always been the No. 1 [goalkeeper], so it’s been a different environment. But I finally buckled down and focused on the game and got super excited.”

The excitement didn’t necessarily lead to results, though.

The Wildcats, with four freshmen in their backline in addition to the freshman goalkeeper, allowed three goals in a 3-1 loss to the Waves.

“The disappointing thing for me is that I felt I could’ve done something,” Reinhardt said. “Every goal that goes in, I re-think it and I feel like I maybe could have done something different.”

Two days later, she got that chance to do something different.

Utah Valley was in town and Burdett was still sidelined. Reinhardt was getting a chance to redeem herself.

“Play your game,” Burdett advised Reinhardt before the game.

And she did. The Wildcats beat the Wolverines 5-1, and Reinhardt kept Utah Valley off the scoreboard until the final minute of the game.

The improvement from the season opener was evident.

“I think she’s gaining confidence as she goes,” Amato said. “It’s a tough thing for any freshman to step on the field, let alone in goal. And she’s handled it well and she’s gotten more confident in every minute that’s ticked by.”

Confidence is the key for Reinhardt, especially as a goalkeeper.

Goalkeepers have the whole field in front of them and have to be able to direct the defense in front of them. That requires being vocal.

It’s something Burdett excels at, but it’s also something that’s not easy for a newcomer like Reinhardt to do.

“Lainey went through that last year as a freshman where you don’t communicate as much,” Amato said. “You’re not as confident [as a freshman]. One kick goes wrong and it may impact you, so I think Meredith is working through some of that.”

But despite the freshman growing pains and being paired with a young backline, Amato has been content with Reinhardt’s play.

“I think it was solid for the situation,” Amato said. “She did some good things; I know she has more in her though because I know how she plays and it’s just a confidence thing. The more confidence she gets, I think we’ll see some of that come out.”

The Wildcats return to the field Friday against No. 16 Texas Tech, and Burdett is expected to miss her third straight game. Reinhardt will fill in for her once again.

It’ll only be the third game of the season, but Reinhardt has already been exactly what Amato brought her in to be: a reliable second option.

“We’re thankful,” Amato said. “[We’re thankful] that we went hard to get her to come here.”


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