Calling the shots

Marcus Traxler

The surprising senior from the Great Northwest has been a defensive leader for the Jacks.

At the start of the 2011 season, Kat Donovan had something to prove. Needless to say, she’s done that.

In two short seasons, she’s gone from junior college to becoming arguably the best goaltender in the Summit League. Donovan will be between the posts this weekend for the Jacks when they take on Oakland in the semifinals of the four-team Summit League Tournament.

After seeing 30 minutes of time in one match last season behind starter Elisa Stamatakis, Donovan took over the position when Stamatakis was injured in the spring. The move allowed Donovan to have the majority of the reps against difficult competition during the spring schedule and was named the starting goaltender at the beginning of the fall season.

“Being positive is really just the big thing for me. Especially last year when I wasn’t seeing the minutes that I obviously wanted. I had to remember ‘team-first, stay positive and things will get better,” Donovan said. “It was hard because I wanted to play but she’s [Stamatakis] a great girl and I love her to pieces, so really it was hard because she worked hard and I had to accept my role, keep working and wait for my chance.”

“To be honest, she kind of received the position by default. We had planned Elisa being the starter after how well she had played last season and she got a little bit of an injury at the end of the season and had a hard time coming back and Kat really seized the opportunity,” head coach Lang Wedemeyer said.

She’s done that. Donovan has 12 wins, 11 of them shutouts and has tallied 67 saves on the season. Her most impressive stat is that she was instrumental in the 832-minute scoreless streak which was finally broken against NDSU last weekend. The mark is the 12th longest streak in NCAA history, one which Donovan credited to having “a great defensive line that made me look really good.”

“I think having her on the back line is an honor because she wants it as bad as anyone and in her two seasons, she’s improved a lot. She’s earned everyone’s respect and I’m so proud of her,” defender Kelli Herman said.

The state of Washington isn’t prime recruiting ground for the SDSU soccer team. In fact, Donovan is the first player in the 11-year history of the program to come from the Evergreen State.

Donovan found her way to SDSU in the most interesting of routes. A native of Redmond, Wash., she spent two years at Shoreline Community College outside Seattle, where she played goaltender for the Dolphins and recorded 14 shutouts in two seasons. One of the coaches that Shoreline commonly plays first contacted SDSU assistant Brock Thompson about Donovan.

“They said there’s a goaltender there who’s decent and my coach called me and said there’s someone that wants to talk to you from South Dakota and I said, ‘South Dakota? What? Like in the middle of country?’ I started looking at SDSU and I was looking at Eastern Washington and I was torn between the two and I got here and I loved it and it felt right.”

“At our level of women’s soccer, you don’t see a tremendous amount of junior college players come through and make a huge impact and it’s not the same as basketball or football,” Wedemeyer said.

Donovan has become popular amongst her teammates for both her fun-loving attitude and desire to win.

“Kat communicates very well and I think that helps our back line,” Herman said. “She’s definitely a character and once you get to know her and her personality, the comments she makes and her outgoing attitude makes her a great teammate.”

“She really started to rise and her confidence started to grow. She’s always someone who’s trying to better herself,” Wedemeyer said.

Now with a trip to the NCAA tournament in the balance, SDSU will have to cross the final hurdles that have tripped the Jacks in the past.

“I think just because of the success we’ve had [this season], we’re going to have that confidence but we know that we can’t underestimate our opponents because they will all be great teams,” Donovan said. “We’ll have to leave it all on the field and all that matters is right now.”