BYU's senior goalkeeper is one of the best in the nation. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
To be a goalie you must be physically and mentally tough. You stand as your team's last line of defense; you are the only person between the opponent and the goal.
Years of competition taught Erika Woodbury the mentality that is required from a goalie at the Division I women?s soccer level. The five-foot-eight senior from Murrieta, Calif., is a fierce competitor who had a record-breaking 12 shutouts in 2006.
"She is a really talented goalie," BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood said. "She works as hard as anyone else both on and off the field."
Woodbury stands as the last line of defense for the women's soccer team that only allowed 11 goals last season. She also set the record for most career saves with 188. She hopes to extend her record during 2007 when she will lead the Cougars to what hopes to be another successful year.
"I like helping my team win," Woodbury said. "Of course you don?t necessarily want to have to make a lot of saves, but it is a great feeling when you make a big save."
Although she seems quiet, Woodbury is driven to succeed at any level of competition she faces. As a young girl Woodbury began playing goalie when she started playing club soccer.
"When I was younger I wanted to be good so that my team would be nice to me," Woodbury said. "I"m not kidding - a mediocre goalie will get ripped by her team."
Today her teammates would never call her a mediocre goalie. Woodbury works her hardest to ensure she is consistent for her team.
"Erika is an excellent goalie," teammate Andrea Willis said. "I love to play with someone I can trust. She is by far, one of the most fierce goalies I have ever seen or played with."
Woodbury has worked hard to maintain a reputation of hard work and discipline.
"I want my team to be able to trust that I will give it everything I can to stop the ball," she said.
Woodbury is dedicated to not letting her teammates down. While blocking a shot during warm-ups of the first road trip of 2006 against No. 15 Georgia, she got her hand on a ball and turned to she if she saved the shot. While looking at the shot Woodbury's head slammed into the post.
Woodbury lay on the field as the coaches and trainers attended to her. The team carried only one other goalie, freshman Aleena Shelton who was planning on redshirting the 2006 season, the coaches were a bit panicked. With 15 minutes before game time remaining, Woodbury decided to forego stitches so she could make the start.
"I heard Erika hit the pole and saw her go down, and I knew we needed to be at our very best against Georgia," Rockwood said. "Erika knew what was on the line, and she had a tremendous game."
With bandages around her head and using a towel to keep the blood from dripping onto her jersey, she played the entire game, helping BYU to a 2-0 victory. Following the game Woodbury went to the training room where she received four staples to close the two-inch gash on her head.
"I did not want to let my team down, and I did not want Aleena's opportunity to redshirt be jeopardized," she said.
Woodbury is no stranger to injuries on the field. Playing goalie requires that you must use your entire body to stop a shot, whether that means diving into a post or taking a cleat to the face.
"I like battle wounds," she said. "There is nothing like a big bruise to show that you played hard."
Woodbury's competitive nature developed when she began playing soccer as a child. As the youngest of four, she surprised her family when she decided to play soccer. Woodbury's two older sisters played softball competitively.
"I have been very lucky to have had a variety of goalie coaches early in my career," Woodbury said. "They combined different aspects of the position to keep me well-balanced."
In high school Woodbury was recruited by a number of schools, but BYU remained her top choice.
"I always wanted to go to BYU," she said. "When other colleges got interested it was flattering, but I wanted BYU. It was always my first choice."
Woodbury came in her freshman year expecting to get a bit of playing time but was surprised with the 1,900 minutes she played.
"We knew Erika would be good, but we did not know how easily she would transition to the Division I level," Rockwood said. "Within the first few weeks she had earned the starting spot."
The coaches told Woodbury to expect a few minutes of playing time during the season opener her freshman year. It was not until just before game time she discovered she was starting. Woodbury would go on to play in 20 games during the season and claim seven shutouts.
"I was a nervous and wild goalie then," Woodbury said. "I have grown a lot from that first game."
During her three years at BYU, Woodbury has developed and matured as a goalie. With one more season left, she will continue to lead the team.
"We have worked to give Erika the confidence she needs to command the team and become the leader that she is capable of becoming," Rockwood said. "I feel she is one of the top goalkeepers in the country, and she will continue to work hard this year."
Woodbury's success at BYU has not gone unnoticed. In 2006 she was named first-team All-Mountain West Conference. The United States Adult Soccer Association selected her, along with teammate Katie Larkin, to the U.S. National Select Women's B Team. The team was scheduled to play Mexico during the summer, but the game was canceled. The teams will likely face each other after the collegiate season has concluded.
"Playing for the national team has been a goal of mine from the time I began playing soccer," Woodbury said. "Until now it had not seemed like anything would come of it, but I've gotten much closer to that goal. Although, I am happy and satisfied if this is as far as I go."
Her future is still unknown. As a fitness and wellness major, Woodbury would like to work as a trainer and a goalie coach one day. A future playing soccer still lingers in her mind, and she will pursue it as far as it will take her.
"In whatever Erika does she is going to have a bright future," Rockwood said. "She is everything a coach could want in a student-athlete and then some."