Today the Big Ten Conference announced its postseason honors, with 46 players receiving a spot on one of three All-Big Ten teams or the Big Ten All-Freshman team.
Among those honored were Northwestern’s Kayla Sharples and Marisa Viggiano, who both deservedly received first team All-Big Ten honors. Also among those honored were Northwestern’s Hannah Davison, who got the nod as one of the conference’s third team centre backs, and Regan Steigleder who was named a member of the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team. Both of those honors for those players were also well-deserved.
Not among those honored? Lauren Clem, the reigning Big Ten Goalkeeper of the year, and, arguably, Northwestern’s best player.
Let that sink in. Clem, who was last year deemed to be the best goalkeeper in the conference, was not among the FIVE given all-conference honors just 12 months later.
That is incredibly difficult to believe.
To put it bluntly, Clem is unquestionably a better goalkeeper than the three keepers (Michigan’s Sarah Jackson, Maryland’s Rachel Egyed, and Nebraska’s Aubrei Corder) who were given All-Big Ten third team honors. The stats back that up–anyone who has watched all of them play should be able to tell you that. It’s really not even debatable.
Furthermore, Clem has a case to be considered better than Ohio State’s Devon Kerr, who was given All-Big Ten second team honors, and while Rutger’s Casey Murphy is an incredible keeper, it’s not that far of a stretch to say that Clem is as good as Murphy is, though their skill sets may be different.
Soccer is weird in that stats, at least the one’s available to those of us who consider ourselves Big Ten Women’s Soccer Ultras, do little to explain the game. It’s hard to look at a page of numbers and learn the intricacies of a team. But even acknowledging that, it’s ridiculously hard to look at the stats and come to the conclusion that Lauren Clem is anything other than either the best or second-best goalkeeper in this conference.
Sarah Jackson, one of Michigan’s three goalkeepers to receive playing time this year, was among the three goalkeepers that tied for a spot on the All Big Ten Third Team. In Michigan’s 18 matches this season, Jackson only appeared in 12 of them. In fact, Jackson only went the distance in 8 of those 12. Without even getting into her performance as a goalkeeper, it beggars belief that Jackson was named a member of the third team despite playing the full match in less than half of Michigan’s matches.
In those 12 matches, Jackson collected 61 saves, while allowing 11 goals. As well, Jackson failed to record a shutout this season, and only 4 times did she go an entire appearance without conceding a goal (3 of those appearances were for 45 minutes, while another was for 65.) While Jackson’s save percentage (.847) arguably works in her favor, it is only marginally better than that of Lauren Clem’s (.840).
Maryland was not a particularly good team this year. The Terrapins closed the year on a 9 match winless streak, and scored just one goal in October (and that came on October 1st). That type of performance undoubtedly puts a lot of pressure on a goalkeeper. Enter Rachel Egyed, Maryland’s junior goalkeeper.
Despite the offensive struggles, Egyed managed to keep 5 clean sheets, including 2 in Big Ten play. However of those 5, just one came against a team in the Top-100 of the RPI (August 20th during a 3×0 win against Navy, unquestionably Maryland’s best performance of the year) and both conference shutouts came against Maryland’s fellow cellar dwellers Michigan State and Illinois.
There is nothing about Egyed’s stat line that suggests she is among the conference’s best goalkeepers. She’s fifth in saves, ninth in shutouts, and fails to crack the top 10 in save percentage.
While Nebraska did well to grind out a number of results this year, the Cornhuskers failed to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament, Their Third Team All-Big Ten honoree Aubrei Corder had a solid, but not spectacular year.
Corder was a part of 8 shutouts this season, but much like Egyed, those came largely against subpar opposition. Corder saved just 53 shots this year, a shade under 3 saves per match. Corder’s save percentage (.803) ranked fifth in the conference, but that number is below the save percentage Clem put up in 2017.
In fact, Clem’s numbers dwarf those put up by Corder, Jackson, Egyed, and even Kerr, who finished the year with just 44 saves. Clem kept 7 clean sheets in Big Ten play and 9 total. In Big Ten play, Clem was beaten just 7 times. Furthermore, her 79 saves were fourth in the conference, while her save percentage ranked third. The Big Ten doesn’t keep track of high-level, difficult saves, but if it did, I would wager a bet that Clem would rank in the top three of that too.
Lauren Clem is a great goalkeeper. Failing to receive this honor does not change that. Clem will go down as one of the best to ever play the position in Big Ten history. She doesn’t need (another) postseason honor to prove that.
But that doesn’t mean she didn’t deserve one. Because she did. No matter how you look at it, Lauren Clem 100 percent deserved to be among those honored by the Big Ten today. That she wasn’t is a poor look for the conference and its coaches.