SoccerWire Q&A: A Hamer in defense for FC Virginia’s U-15 ECNL squad
We know that most individual praise in soccer goes towards those who are magical with the ball at their feet: creative midfielders, speedy, dangerous wingers, clinical strikers, etc.
But, a team is only as good as its defense, and for one of the top Under-15 teams in the Elite Clubs National League, one central defender is making a lot of noise while keeping other teams quiet.
FC Virginia’s U-15s sit in first place in the ECNL Midatlantic Conference, averaging an impressive 2.78 points per game. They have won eight games and tied one and hold a commanding early lead over second-place CASL, who are 7-3-1. In the nine games that FCV have played in ECNL this term, the team has scored 24 goals – but more impressively, the team has allowed just four.
A big part of that is because of Kelsey Hamer, a rock in the back at central defender.
“I think she is probably the strongest we have overall in terms of workrate and just attitude towards the game,” FC Virginia coach Christian Cziommer said. “Who do you never want to miss in a game? She would probably be my first pick.”
And she may be a pick when it comes time to recommend players for the U.S. national team system.
“I think she does,” her coach said about her potential to play NCAA Division I soccer. “We will probably nominate her for the national pool at some point. She definitely has the potential.”
As for what she does well, just name it. FCV are so confident with her at the back that they routinely pour forward in numbers, leaving her and just one other defender to patrol the back gate.
“She reads the game very well,” Cziommer said. “I think the players that play next to her really rely on her and feel comfortable playing next to her. She starts the game very well out of the back and is not afraid to carry the ball out of the back. She is very aggressive, very quick to the ball. She builds the game out of the back very well.”
The talented defender spoke with Soccerwire.com about her current season, and the future ahead.
Soccerwire: What do you love about the central defender position?
Kelsey Hamer: It is a huge responsibility playing this position because the rest of my team counts on me so much, but I love the challenge. I feel like I connect well with my goalie and other defenders, and this strong relationship among us helps us to perform well in games because we’ve learned to trust each other. Also, I enjoy being able to see the whole field as a defender so that I can communicate well with others about what’s around them. Playing center defense has helped me to break out of my shell, because communication is such a major part of this position.
SW: While many players love the glory of scoring goals, do you get the same feeling when your team doesn’t allow a goal in a game? What does a shutout mean to you?
KH: The sad truth about defense is it is hard for other coaches to get an idea about the strength of defenders, because the defense works as a whole. Statistics don’t show the number of goals a defender has stopped or the number of plays a defender has disrupted. It’s not like offense where individuals get credit for each goal and assist. Defenders can do everything right and still not get anywhere close to the recognition of offensive players.
I’m okay with being unglorified, though, because it keeps me modest and helps me to stay true to myself. Shutouts are the best way [to show] the strength of a team’s defense, and my personal goal is to end every game with zero goals against. So far this season my team has had 6 shutouts in 9 games. It’s taken our entire defense working together to make that happen.
SW: What is your college recruitment status? You are still at a relatively early stage in that process, but what is your dream school?
KH: I really just started looking into colleges. I have a picture in my mind of what type of college I’d like to go to. Of course, soccer is a big factor, but I also need to think about a college in terms of strong academics. I’ve made a list of some schools that seem like a fit in both areas. UVa [University of Virginia], William & Mary, Georgetown and UNC are excellent schools in terms of athletics and academics, but my dream college is Notre Dame. My dad went to Notre Dame, and some of my favorite memories growing up are sitting around the TV with my family singing the fight song and cheering on the Fighting Irish.
SW: How much has your coach helped you as a defender, and how?
KH: I feel like I’ve learned so much with Christian as my coach. Christian has given me great tips on positioning, communication, leadership, one-vs.-one defending, and he even taught me how to slide tackle, which I love because it’s maybe the only time that defenders get to look flashy.
Christian has very high expectations for the defense because he was a defender himself, and that makes me want to prove myself to him, and to myself, at every practice, scrimmage, tournament, ECNL game. He expects me to prove myself at every opportunity and doesn’t accept excuses. Christian repeatedly tells us that mistakes are building blocks to success, and this way of thinking is one of the reasons I have been successful in my career as a soccer player.
SW: What is the quality of play in ECNL like? Does it help you improve?
KH: The quality of play in ECNL is unbelievable. Playing in ECNL has given me the opportunity to defend against some of the top ten players and teams in the country. Sometimes that’s humbling, but playing against them has motivated me to raise my game. I remember the qualities of some of the top players to find ways to improve my own game.