Boyd Keeps Focus on Success in 2011

By Anthony Casson

Kick the ball past Oregon State goalkeeper Colleen Boyd, and you have done more than score a goal: You have defied great odds.

The senior is a true guardian of the net, a brazen force in an already stout Beaver defense. Preseason No. 5 Florida State and its offensive firepower are in Corvallis, Ore., to challenge OSU and its star Friday evening.

Boyd's consistency in the box last season helped her team secure a spot in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season, the third appearance in OSU's history. A loss in the second round against Oklahoma State ended the school-record 16-4-1 season. But it was the results preceding that final outing that have propelled the program into another realm, now with 10 returning starters and a No. 19 national ranking.

Boyd is its beloved protector and defensive cornerstone.

After beginning the 2010 season with five consecutive shutouts, her path to keeper glory opened. She finished with 14 shutouts and saved 76 of the 88 shots on goal, resulting in a spot on the All-Conference first team and NSCAA All-American awards.

Despite her personal success and the team's record, in a conference filled with tournament contenders, Boyd is keen to move forward. She already has.

"For me, personally, all that stuff that happened last year is awesome," she said. "My team was really proud of me. We all worked really hard. I couldn't have done it without them. It was great to live in that moment, and I really enjoyed it, but I think going into this season, that's all behind me now.

"Whatever happened last season isn't really going to carry into this season."

A blunt response, perhaps. But she's focused, disciplined and prepared for her final season with the Beavers. When she says her only goal is to keep giving 110 percent every day, it's easy to believe. Just as it's easy to believe her maturity: "Everything that happens after [giving 110 percent] happens."

She hopes most to maintain her and the back line's consistency. Otherwise, this year's team is about extending the offense's pressure.

"We're really looking to score more goals this year," Boyd said. "We've got a pretty solid defensive line, and we're just ready to take people on - not let anyone shoot is really the goal."

Keepers are at an obvious disadvantage when it comes to helping their team's offensive attack. But don't discount bright characters, like Boyd, who contribute in other ways.

During a conversation, she's confident and happy. Unlike some coaches and athletes who either don't shake hands or wait for someone to make the first move, she extends hers and smiles. At six feet tall, with matching arms, she has plenty of reach.

Her eyes store competitive spirit - kind and warm with a hint of timely brutality. And it all comes flowing out from her vocal chords on the field.

"She is definitely the loudest one out there," head coach Linus Rhode said. "She's very vocal, and the players respond to her."

Aside from her Lone Ranger position on the pitch, she's memorable for her commanding yell. More memorable than the number—five—on her jersey.

"When she's there she's an organizer, she's a leader; she vocally helps the back line," Rhode said. "We expect Colleen to bring more of the same, and even more since it's her last year."

That helps the defense, but when the ball makes its way towards the scoring end, her role changes. She doesn't direct.

"We can hear her from her goal area - more so encouraging players, helping them along, just to keep going," Rhode said. "She might not have a direct impact on what's happening up front as far as play goes, but she's definitely helping the players be effective through her vocal support."

If all else fails, however, OSU sounds more than confident in its defensive abilities. That's its identification card for now.

The Beavers will need that defense, with Boyd and her helping hands - the ones beyond her gloves, keeping opponents out of her acreage - if they want to win the new-look Pac-12 Conference or make a third straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Senior defenders and 2010 starters Ashley Folsom and Brittany Galindo accompany Boyd in the backfield. Junior Milan Cabrera returns as a starter, making the back line one of the most experienced in the conference.

"The girls are obviously very comfortable playing with each other, are confident in each other," Rhode said. "That puts them in a good spot starting the season against Florida State. I think the key for us is keeping everybody healthy. It's nice to have that kind of experience back there."

OSU is healthy and ready to continue its success against top-ranked opponents. In 2010, the Beavers defeated three, including No. 16 UCLA, No. 19 USC and No. 24 Memphis in the NCAA tournament. But come Friday evening, it's all about the Seminoles.

"We have a lot of respect for Florida State," Boyd said. "They're a great team. At the same time, I think they know we're a great team, too. Everyone's looking forward to it.

"We didn't want a cupcake preseason schedule. We're ready for some good teams, and I think this is going to help us a lot moving forward."

Players acknowledged the increased attendance last season and the attention they drew from local and regional media. The atmosphere changed, but the women didn't. Boyd is determined to not let attention and third-party chatter prevent them from thinking as they always have.

"It's [about making] ourselves happy first," she said. "Worry about ourselves, worry about the team…We always expect that high level of play out of ourselves, which obviously carries over into every game."

Boyd isn't the only impact player on this year's OSU squad. Instead of absorbing the compliments and accolades and moving on, she credits her teammates, always.

But she's more than an impact. She's the binding agent - the voice of attack and order.

Photo credit: Ethan Erickson

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