In just her third college game, she played a critical role in the Tar Heels’ 11-8 upset of defending national champion Northwestern last week. After that, how intimidating could it be?
“Each game I’m getting more and more comfortable, even if I’m on the sideline,” said Ward, a St. Mary’s graduate and an Under Armour All-American last season. “I’m getting more comfortable being in a college game environment. The first game, even though I didn’t get a chance to play, I was still very nervous and I think it was good to have Northwestern early on. Now, I feel pretty comfortable.”
Playing in Chapel Hill Friday against Northwestern, Ward made six saves and allowed four goals. She inherited a three-goal lead from starting keeper Lauren Maksym, a senior veteran, and never let the Wildcats get closer than within two goals.
She had a simple strategy when she stepped into the cage to face the Wildcats, who averaged 17 goals in their first two games.
“I just had to get in the mindset that it was any other team and not think about it being Northwestern and just try to play my best,” said Ward, who has an 8.67 goals-against average and a .458 save rate.
At 5 feet 2, Ward prefers to be a stay-at-home goalie who thwarts attackers with her athleticism and her ability to cut off the angles. She said she’s looked to Maksym to help her tweak those angles against a faster college game.
“I think the biggest adjustment is probably just the speed of the game,” Ward said. “Not necessarily the speed of the shot, but just how quickly the ball gets down to the other end and how quickly the ball moves. I think that’s why I sometimes struggle with my angles, because of the pace of the game.”
Ward’s on-the-job education continues Saturday when the Tar Heels travel to meet Penn.