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Published: 10/19/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

UT keeper labeled a spark plug

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Last weekend, University of Toledo goalkeeper, senior Vicki Traven earned her 32nd career shutout to seal a 2-0 victory over Buffalo. Last weekend, University of Toledo goalkeeper, senior Vicki Traven earned her 32nd career shutout to seal a 2-0 victory over Buffalo.
DANIEL MILLER PHOTO Enlarge

With her left arm outstretched as far as it would go, a leaping Vicki Traven tipped the ball away just before it crossed the goal line.

Her coaches and teammates on the University of Toledo women's soccer team marveled at the save by their senior goalkeeper, but cautioned an observer that you should really see what kind of acrobatics she pulls off in games.

Yes, Traven's brilliant save came on a routine afternoon practice Tuesday at the Fetterman Training Center, an indication of just how seriously she takes her craft.

Known as the team's spark plug, Traven certainly knows how to put on a show, even when it's just her teammates firing shots on goal.

"She brings a lot of emotion to games and she brings a lot of emotion to practice," UT coach Brad Evans said. "That save she made in practice gets you fired up. We're very lucky that she chose Toledo."

Traven has been a mainstay in goal for the Rockets for the past four seasons. Last weekend, she fittingly earned her 32nd career shutout on senior day in a 2-0 win over Buffalo and became the Mid-American Conference's all-time leader in that category.

"It's a wonderful accomplishment," said Traven, an exercise science major. "I think it shows how well coach Evans recruits, as far as creating a defensive-minded team. We definitely make defense a priority and then we go from there with our offense."

That defensive prowess was on display against Buffalo, with Traven not having to make a save during the entire contest.

That doesn't mean, however, that Traven just sits back and does nothing in games when she isn't tested by the opposition.

"Vicki does a great job keeping us focused during the game, and she directs us where to go and who we need to cover," UT junior defender Natalia Gaitan said. "It takes a lot of teamwork, and we take a lot of pride in every shutout too."

Growing up in St. Charles, Ill., a suburb 35 miles west of Chicago, Traven started at keeper when she started playing soccer at the age of 8. She later took a break from that position for three years, but since she was 15, she's been a full-time goalkeeper.

Traven said the unpredictably of the position is what appeals to her the most.

"It's crazy," she said with a laugh. "It's definitely a thrill. And being able to manage the team and kind of see everything on the field, it's a very mental position. I enjoy being able to do that and I enjoy flying through the air and putting my body on the line."

As for what has allowed her to be so successful at the position, her coach said Traven is a very driven person.

"She will be the hardest working in the weight room. She will be out here in training taking real physical risks. She will push hard through fitness," Evans said. "Just the way she approaches athletics in a highly competitive manner. She's competitive with others but really she's competitive with herself."

UT is 7-0-1 in its last eight matches, all in conference play, and sits atop the MAC West standings.

If the Rockets win their matches this weekend at Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan, they'll secure their third regular season conference championship in the last four years along with the No. 1 seed in the MAC tournament, and Traven has had plenty to do with their success.

"There is a level of confidence that an excellent goalkeeper brings to the entire team, having a backstop that you know is there. That even if something breaks down, it's still going to be very difficult for the opponent to score," Evans said. "I think our [defenders] benefit from that, as well as our midfielders and forwards, knowing that she's there."

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.



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