Reserve goalkeeper boosts Missouri soccer team

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | 8:47 p.m. CDT; updated 9:07 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Paula Pritzen, a transfer from Clemson, makes a kick from the goal box during a scrimmage against the MU men's club soccer team Tuesday at Walton Stadium. Missouri soccer coach Bryan Blitz calls the addition of Pritzen a “perfect storm.” She should help mentor younger goalkeepers sophomore Jessica Gwin and freshman McKenzie Sauerwein.

COLUMBIA — Coming to the Missouri soccer team as a backup for sophomore Jessica Gwin, goalkeeper Paula Pritzen views any playing time as a blessing.

After this weekend, Pritzen has plenty of blessings to count.

Pritzen, a graduate student who transferred from Clemson for her last year of eligibility, shut out Baylor 2-0 Friday and made five saves against Texas Tech on Sunday in the Tigers’ 5-2 win. She was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week Tuesday.

“Everybody had confidence in me, and I had confidence in our team,” Pritzen said. “We played really well, and I guess we did kind of click and have a really good weekend.”

Pritzen took over the starting role after Gwin suffered a concussion in Missouri’s loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 17. Once she found out she was starting, she focused on mentally preparing and having good practices.

“It was a tough weekend on the road, and we needed to get two wins and we did,” Pritzen said.

After starting 34 of her past 35 games at Clemson and ranking second in saves (89) and saves per game (4.94) in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year, Pritzen has made five starts in relief of Gwin this season.

Pritzen came into the season knowing she was going to be Gwin’s backup and resolved to help the Tigers off the field as well as on it. 

“Any time that I get the chance, I’m trying to help the team in any way I can,” Pritzen said.

She tried to be a leader, especially when it came to working with Gwin. Pritzen knew Gwin would be experiencing her first season as the starting goalkeeper, and she worked with Gwin to build her confidence and sharpen her communication skills.

“Paula’s had a positive attitude all the way through,” Gwin said. “She pushes me every practice.”

Taking a back seat to Gwin wasn’t tough for Pritzen. The Spring, Texas, native has embraced her role on the team, something Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said was a result of Pritzen’s being a seasoned veteran.

“She took it in a positive light,” Blitz said. “She’s older and more mature, and I think that helped her too, as opposed to being a younger goalkeeper.”

As a result, Missouri has a combination in goal that avoids a letdown in case of an injury to Gwin.

“It’s unique,” Blitz said. “What a great asset.”

As for Pritzen’s belief that any game action she sees is a blessing, she’s poised to collect some more: Blitz said she will start Friday at Iowa State in Missouri's regular season finale.

“She’s playing her best soccer now,” Blitz said.

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