MEQUON, Wis. - Samantha Anacker has waited two years for this season. She has watched and waited from the sidelines knowing that the hard work she was putting in during practice would eventually pay off.
After riding the bench as a backup to All-Northern Athletics Conference performer and four-year starter Mary Ryan (Iron Mountain, Mich.), Anacker knew that the past two years were beneficial, even if at times it didn't feel so.
"I am ready," Anacker said. "I have been ready for a while. I am not feeling the pressure yet, but I know it is coming. I just have to remember that the ball has to get through 10 of my teammates before it gets to me."
She plays a position that is one of a kind. The goalkeeper position can have a view of the action from inches away or from what seems like a mile. Those angles allow Anacker (Janesville, Wis.) to be the director of the Falcons' defense, shouting instructions to her teammates on where the ball is and where the opposition is moving.
Anacker isn't always on an island wondering if that day will be the day when she has to make nine saves to preserve a victory or if the ball will even come to her end of the field. She knows her island consists of a defense that recorded eight shutout victories last season.
"We need her to take charge and be confident in the back, and I have seen that so far this year," head coach Ryan Middendorf said. "Sam has a confident personality to begin with, which always helps a goalkeeper. I think she is going to take advantage of this opportunity as the starter. I felt like she was pressured in the past coming off the bench."
While she has played in a mere 11 matches during her time at Concordia University Wisconsin, the season-opener on Sept. 1 against UW-Whitewater won't be as foreign to the 5-foot-8, right footer as one would think. It will be just 10 days shy of a calendar year that Anacker made her first collegiate start.
But before she would notch her first victory, Anacker was thrown into the fire after Ryan received a red card and was ejected from a match against St. Norbert College.
Entering with a 2-1 lead, Anacker was given no time to warm up and was unsure of what was happening as she entered in the 81st minute. It took less than two minutes before she made a crucial diving save and not more than three minutes later she tallied her second save of the match to preserve CUW's first win of the season.
"I was just standing on the sidelines having a conversation with my teammates," Anacker said. "I didn't think anything of it and coach said, 'Sam you have to go.' I didn't know what to do, so I ripped off my jacket and just ran out there."
Because of Ryan's misfortune Anacker made her first collegiate start in goal a week later against Alverno College and the Falcon defense pitched a 9-0 shutout.
For Middendorf it eased his nerves knowing that he had someone with Anacker's abilities waiting in the wings, ready at a moment's notice.
"Sam has in some ways been preparing to become the starter for two years now." Middendorf said. "She has progressively been getting better each season and within each year she has grown."
After two years of waiting and watching, Anacker's time is now. All the hours of sweating during practice, grinding it out knowing she wouldn't play is going to make her time between the pipes at Fitting Field all the more special this season.