Women’s soccer’s great “problem”

The Eagles have two goalies capable of playing and starting at a high level.


Photo Courtesy of BIOLA Athletics

Joel Ashor, Sports Editor

This story was originally published in print on Oct. 4, 2018.

Biola women’s soccer head coach Erin Brunelle has a problem—a good one. Her team has two goalkeepers that have proven capable of playing at a high level in the PacWest. While freshman Viviana Poli has received more playing time thus far, junior Alyssa Joel has also seen the field plenty as of late and shone throughout her time, recording several saves in clutch situations to help preserve wins.  


At this point in the season, most teams have settled on a starting goalkeeper. However, two games into PacWest play, the Eagles are running a two-goalie rotation.

“We’ve been giving both of the ladies opportunities to show what they can do, and they’ve been challenging each other well in practice, so we’ve just allowed that battle to continue out in games,” Brunelle said. “Really it’s a game to game decision.”

Without a true No. 1 keeper manning the net, a lack of confidence can arise, but both Poli and Joel say the unique approach keeps their confidence levels high no matter what.

“Confidence plays a big role in any goalkeeper’s playing ability,” Joel said. “I try to go into each game confident whether or not I’m playing the first half, the second half, the whole game [or] not playing at all. I try to stay confident knowing that it’s wherever God has placed me for that game.”

As a freshman, Poli sees every opportunity as a blessing and is just happy to be playing with her team. 

“Coming in, I wasn’t really expecting much playing time because of the fact that I am a freshman, so I’m just stoked to realize that I have been playing a good amount of minutes, I’m really grateful for the minutes I get,” Poli said.


With both players playing significant time this season, the level of intensity in practice has pushed the two to focus more on every drill and has shown results in games.

“I think because it is only two of us it always has pushed me to compete even within warm-ups, at practice, just the little things, going for each rep focusing singly on each drill to get the best out of it,” Joel said.

On many teams, the focus is simply on beating out one’s competition for the starting position, but neither Joel nor Poli see their situation that way, citing how they both support each other fully whenever they are not playing.

“The minutes that I don’t get, I am her number one fan,” Poli said. “I do understand that I am a freshman and that I do have four years here, it’s comforting and I’ve been having a really fun year with these girls.”

Joel echoed that sentiment, stating how no matter who starts, it is a team competition and she fully understands the importance of that.

“We are competing for time against each other, but we’re ultimately competing as a team together, so whether that’s her playing or me it is always a win for us as a unit,” Joel said.


A different culture is present on this team, and it has affected the way the Eagles play and their attitude towards the game. Poli noticed this difference immediately.

“The character on the team is amazing, other teams are so sport-oriented, but here, as soon as I stepped on the field together to practice with them I instantly felt comforting, and I didn’t have the minority of being a freshman,” Poli said. “It felt really great to feel like I was part of a team and not just playing for me. It’s really different, we pray before games and I love it and it just makes it that much better.”

Brunelle sees the value each player brings to the table and her decision to start one over the other is based off of a key she looks for in her whole team: consistency.

“They’re both challenging each other and there’s no clear starter as of right now. That could change but right now I think it’s more of seeing who’s been consistent and is improving based on what our goalkeeper coach is working on with them, and also if they’re understanding what we’re trying to do as a team,” Brunelle said.

Whether or not the Eagles decide on one starting goalkeeper this year, Biola fans can look to see both Poli and Joel continue to push each other and work towards the team’s goal of a second consecutive National Christian College Athletics Association championship.

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