Haines was a forward for the Edward Little girls’ soccer team that won the Eastern A title and lost in the state championship game. Mower was a defensive back for the Red Eddies boys.

Now they’re both being groomed as EL’s starting keepers. It’s a challenging task as it is but both are replacing all-state caliber keepers. Lew Jensen was one of the top keepers in the state while backstopping the boys’ team the last four years. Molly Murray was an all-star goalie as well as EL made its lengthy journey toward the state game.

Neither Mower or Haines had played in goal before. They both began their training this summer as potential backstops.

“She got a later jump than (Owen) did,” EL coach Matt Andreasen said. “We at least went into the summer thinking we were rolling with Owen. For Fran, I think they were halfway through their summer schedule and she volunteered to Craig (Latuscha).”

Haines, a senior, is not only replacing Murray but also filling in for junior Mariah Vaillancourt. She had been thought to be the heir to the goal. She’s out of action currently with an eye injury and won’t be back for another two weeks. When she’s ready to return, that might not mean Haines’ job in net is over. EL girls’ coach Craig Latuscha just might use Vaillancourt in the field.

“Even before that happened, we thought about keeping Mariah in the field,” Latuscha said. “She brings a lot to the field, like Frankie did.”

Haines not only had a lot of the physical attributes that might suit her in net, she was also willing.

“Franky’s pretty athletic,” Latuscha said. “She plays basketball and has pretty good hands. She’s willing to do what it takes for the team. She’s really put her time in. She’s working hard. She’s getting better every game. By the end of the season, she’s going to be dominant.”

Haines had been told by a parent that she’d make a good goalie. That sparked the idea in her head. When Latuscha suggested she seek out some training for keepers during the summer, she did just that..

“I was shocked” she said of her coach’s suggestion. “It was something I definitely didn’t expect, but I was ready to do it for my team. He had told me to at least try it out. I worked my butt off. It was very hard but my team motivated me to do it. “

It isn’t easy to step into the starting keeper role , especially on a championship-caliber team with high expectation. The seasoned team in front of her supports her but there’s pressure to do the job. She has all-state defender Sarah Hammond in front and another veteran defender in Kaylee Jipson that supports her efforts.

“It’s nerve-wracking, but coach is helping me with my confidence,” Haines said. “My teammates have been supporting me throughout the process, which helps so much.”

Her confidence grows with each game. Her punts have improved and her command of the game and presence behind the defense continues to grow.

“My team always asks me to be the third eye and try to help them see what to do,” Haines said. “With them helping me, I try to help them even more.”

Mower had come into the program as a back, but EL had plenty of players that can handle that role. Andreasen thought Mower’s makeup might help him handle the keeper’s role.

“Owen’s a great kid,” Andreasen said. “He’s a leader. He’s a hard worker. My coaches and I met and discussed where we could fit this kid in.”

Replacing a keeper the caliber of Jensen was a tall order but one Andreasen thought Mower could handle. Mower did a variety of keeper training this summer while also playing for EL during the summer session.

“Physically, he fits the prototype,” Andreasen said. “He’s quick and he does well laterally. He’s got surprisingly good hands. He was thrown in net this summer. We’re giving him more training now. I just think now it’s experience and repetition.”

Mower was as surprised as Haines when his coach suggested he don the goalie gear for a change of position.

“I’d never thought of it before,” Mower said. “I thought it was a good opportunity and something our team needed. So I wanted to step up.”

Getting some training during the summer and playing with EL, Mower started to get accustomed to the role. He started to embrace it and his comfort grew.

“As soon as the summer season started and we got some rhythm going, I wasn’t too down on myself with the mistakes I made” Mower said. “Things got going, and it was like a snowball rolling down a hill. It just got bigger and bigger.”

While Haines steps into a relatively veteran club with tourney aspirations, EL is a young club. Mower is growing into his role just like most of his teammates.

“We’re all learning and building on each other” Mower said. “We’re learning to play with each other. There’s a lot of young guys, but we’re working hard to get better.”

EL has started the season 1-1-2 and allowed just two goals. The Red Eddies have proven they can play with some of the top teams in Eastern A. Mower has been a key part of that early success.

“I’m not just playing and acting like a goalie anymore,” Mower said. “I am a goalie.”

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