Inskeep: Saving the Jacks one goal at a time

SDSU’s run to the Summit League Championship featured a team full of heroes. One such hero is goalkeeper Nicole Inskeep.

Inskeep said her most memorable save was the one she made on the sixth penalty kick Saturday to lead the Jackrabbits to the championship, but she’s had plenty of saves in her time, beginning soccer at 8 years old after her mom signed her up and embracing the goalkeeper position soon after.

Inskeep played on a high school team that won state championships her sophomore and senior year and finished state runner-up her junior season.

“We just had a really good team and we meshed really well together,” Inskeep said. 

During this time, several schools recruited the goalkeeper out of Ankeny, Iowa, but SDSU stood out above the rest.

“I think I kind of knew as soon as I set foot on campus that I was going to end up here,” Inskeep said.

With returning starter Elisa Stamatakis out of the season, Inskeep found herself in the starting role when the season began.

“I guess the biggest thing I learned was just you have to be ready for anything,” Inskeep said. “I came in pretty much not expecting to play at all and just kind of got thrown in there so I guess I learned that you have to be on your toes and take everything in stride. You learn from your losses and just keep rolling with it.”

Following last season, it was Inskeep who had to deal with an injury, having surgery on her foot during the offseason and out for the spring season with a boot on her foot. Regardless, she said the recovery process was smooth, readying her for the fall season.

“I felt good coming back,” Inskeep said. “I rehabbed it, and all of our athletic trainers have been great so it didn’t really feel any different coming into this season than it did last season.”

A bigger obstacle facing Inskeep’s return to the field was Stamatakis, fully recovered and ready for her fifth and final season at SDSU.

The two split games during the nonconference schedule before Stamatakis appeared to win the job for the conference season. That all changed on the road in Omaha when Stamatakis went down with what would be a season ending injury, sending Inskeep back into the thick of things amidst a tightening conference race.

Inskeep responded, helping the Jacks to wins in their final two games of the season against USD and Denver, who she shutout, and then allowing only a goal apiece to NDSU and Denver in the Summit League Tournament heading into the penalty kicks that would decide the winner.

“As a keeper, you go into PKs without any expectations because I guess they’re expected to make it and you’re not expected to save it, so I guess if you do it’s just kind of a bonus,” Inskeep said. “The shooters have a lot more pressure on them than I do so I think that kind of works to my advantage at times.”

Following her second save in six chances during the penalty kicks, it was Inskeep’s chance to watch as her teammate Tori Poole challenged Denver’s goalkeeper for the win.

“At that point Tori still had to make it so I was just praying that Tori would hit her shot and we’d be done with it,” Inskeep said.

Poole did make the shot, and now the next offense Inskeep faces will be that of No. 2 seed University of North Carolina Tar Heels.  

Despite the fact that the goalkeeper is not running up and down the field like the rest of the players, the position still can be physically demanding. Goalkeepers like Inskeep will often make several dives during the game, risk collisions pursuing balls in front of the net, and have to stand in, react and protect the net in one-on-one situations.

“You have to go out and just be willing to put your body on the line to make the save because in the end that’s what counts so however you get it done, as long as you get it done, that’s what matters,” Inskeep said.