COLUMBIA — If Mallory Page and Elise Castellanos are doing their jobs, no one is supposed to get past them.
Page, a freshman on the Columbia College women's soccer team, and Castellanos, a junior, are the starting defenders in the center back position for the Cougars. Their job is to secure the defense, protect the goal and minimize opponents' shots and goal scoring chances.
Harris-Stowe State (2-11, 0-5 in the AMC)
at Columbia College (11-0-3, 5-0-1 in the AMC)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: R. Marvin Owens Stadium
Harris-Stowe State (2-9, 1-2 in the AMC)
at Columbia College (6-7, 4-1)
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: R. Marvin Owens Stadium
Page is coming off a successful career at Lee's Summit High School. She played varsity all four years, was a captain for three and earned Western Region and KC Metro Defensive Player of the Year awards in addition to being named first team All-State player her senior year.
Page played for the club soccer team Kansas City Legends in addition to her high school team. Before her junior year, while playing for Legends, she hit a self-described "rough patch" in her soccer career and had doubts about continuing playing on the college level.
"The team I was on wasn't very serious about college soccer and took it as a joke," Page said. "I was doing soccer all the time; I didn't want to just do that the rest of my life."
She switched club teams to Blue Valley Soccer Club, which had a more serious outlook, encouraging her to pursue playing college soccer.
"The recruiting process really opened my eyes about playing in college. It made me want to pick the best college I could," Page said.
Castellanos grew up in San Jose, Calif., and played soccer there from first grade until this season. After graduating from Santa Teresa High School, she played at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose for two years before transferring to Columbia College.
Since moving to Columbia, Castellanos has become used to the college-town feel of the city. She said people seem more trusting and friendlier toward one another here. Although, she is still adjusting to the Missouri weather, she said.
"The humidity was crazy, but the biggest difference is going to be when it starts snowing," she said. "I used to have to go on vacation to see snow."
Castellanos has also had to adjust to her new team, though her sister joined her in transferring to Columbia College to play soccer, which gave her a sense of comfort.
"I wouldn't have come to Columbia if she didn't come with me," Castellanos said. "It's nice to have my family's support at home, but I have to get out of the nest sometime."
As defenders, Page and Castellanos have developed a trust for one another despite only playing together for a couple months.
"Mallory is always there when I need her," Castellanos said. "I know if I get beat that she's going to do her best to stop the attacker, and I'd do the same for her."
The Cougars have been hit with a number of injuries this season, but Page and Castellanos have started every game so far this season and lead the team in minutes played, typically playing the whole game.
"They'll consistently give us 90 high-quality minutes," Columbia College coach John Klein said. "They rarely fall off or tire in a game."
Klein said this has given the team a sense of security about defense and allowed the Cougars to experiment with offensive strategies.
Klein gave praise to Page and Castellanos when he compared them to two seniors on the Columbia College men's team. Nikola Velickovic is a three-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American, and Tom Vincenc was first team All-Conference last year, as well as being named an NAIA Scholar-Athlete.
Klein said that Page has a great ability to read a play as it develops in front of her and communicate what she sees to her teammates, while Castellanos uses her physicality and athleticism more to her advantage.
Klein said he thinks their play this year can earn some All-Conference considerations, much like their counterparts on the men's side.
"We've only given up more than two goals once this year, a great accomplishment that I attribute a lot to Elise and Mallory," Klein said. "I feel very protected with them back there."