COLUMBIA — Madison Boyken is a talkative person. And when she talks, it’s often loud.
In class, she’s inquisitive, a frequent participant in class discussions, asking questions to further debates. On the soccer pitch, she’s assertive and bossy, a compass for her defenders, telling them where to go.
“I’m always talking loud, it’s hard to get me to shut up,” Boyken said.
The constant chatter might annoy her classmates, but it assists her teammates.
They’ll be hearing it more often. Thus far this season, Boyken, a junior goalkeeper on the Rock Bridge girls soccer team, has split time in net with senior captain Aubrie Cornell. But Cornell currently has a cast on her left hand after tearing a ligament in her thumb last Thursday and can no longer play goalkeeper this season.
Cornell’s injury leaves Boyken as the only goalie on the Bruins roster.
Having Boyken in net every game ensures messages from the Bruins' net to defenders will be communicated loud and clear. Having Boyken play also ensures that net will be vacated at times.
Boyken is the high-wire act of high school goalkeepers. During her four previous starts this season, she often abandoned the net to run at the opposition, challenging the girl in possession of the ball.
“Being a goalie, you have to take risks,” coach Jack Rubenstein, a former goalkeeper, said. “You have to lay it on the line. Sometimes it goes in your favor, and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Rubenstein says by taking risks, Boyken is playing to her strengths. He doesn’t want her to change her style.
“We’ll live and die with her making those decisions,” Rubenstein said.
And Boyken has no intentions of changing her style. She enjoys it too much to change it.
“It’s a big adrenaline rush, because there’s like a 50-50 chance you can stop the shot,” Boyken said. “I like the big, hard collisions and the excitement. Once I get the stop, it makes me feel good because it means I made a stop people (spectators) didn’t think I’d be able to get.”
Cornell, who began this season with a broken middle finger before tearing the ligament in her hand, is all too familiar with the physical toll goaltending can take on teenage girls. Especially in the chilly, inclement weather mid-Missouri has experienced this spring.
“In the cold, if it (the ball) hits you, it really hurts,” Cornell said. “If it hits you really hard, it kind of feels like pins and needles at first, and then it just burns. It’s like getting a shot, but repeatedly.”
Boyken says it takes bravery to play in goal, given the amount of times a keeper falls down, gets kicked or stepped on. She doesn’t know many people willing to take a beating like that.
Rubenstein, a goalie in his playing days, doesn’t know why anyone would want to take such a beating.
“You got to be crazy to be a goalie,” Rubenstein said. “I don’t know who would want to be a goalie. It is a nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching position, and it’s all about anticipation, and it could be one big save that you’ve got to make per game or maybe five big saves, but you got to be up for the task, whatever it is.”