by Alisa Brandle
Playing Division-I soccer is something of which most high school players dream. For some, however, the dream seems more attainable than for others. Plagued by broken bones in her foot and relatively inexperienced, Husky senior goalkeeper Lisa Brookens was one of the latter. Thus, when picking a college, Brookens focused on academics, not athletics.
"I really loved Washington," says the Englewood, Colo., native. "I came here with my soccer team in high school, took a campus tour and loved it. I chose Washington for academic reasons, but my parents convinced me to talk to the coaches about walking on to the soccer team."
Washington's coaches listened to Brookens and offered her a spot on the squad as a recruited walk-on, where she became one of five UW goalies - including All-American Hope Solo - competing for time between the pipes. The most decorated player in Husky history and a member of the U.S. National Team, Solo's grip on the starting job was secure. With four other keepers fighting for the few minutes each game allotted to the backup, Brookens knew that the only way to see the field was to work hard and develop her skills.
"If there is a most improved player at Washington, it is Lisa Brookens," says UW head coach Lesle Gallimore. "Lisa has done some amazing things in the last three years to get her to the point where she is the starter in 2003."
In her first three years on the team, Brookens played in only five games. Her chances to make an impression came in practice, and she dedicated herself to taking advantage of those opportunities. Working with assistant coach Amy Griffin and practicing everyday with Solo developed Brookens into the player she is today.
"I basically learned everything I know about goalkeeping from working with Amy and Hope," she says. "I could not have been the player I am today without either of them."
Replacing Solo, whose name appears beside every major UW goaltending record, was a daunting task.
"I initially felt like I had huge shoes to fill following Hope, but that's totally behind me now," Brookens says. "I'm working with this team, with what we have now and what I need to do for my team."
More remarkable is that the player being called upon to replace a legend was a field player until her junior year in high school, stumbling upon goalkeeper by default.
"I started playing goalie because I couldn't make the varsity team on the field," Brookens explains. "A spot opened up at goal, and I made varsity as a goalkeeper."
Keepers must be well-rounded, strong athletes. Brookens' says that her involvement in other sports helped fuel her success in goal, a regimen she has continued to pursue in college as a member of the UW's women's lacrosse team. She was also a four-year letterwinner in basketball at Cherry Creek High School, and remains an active downhill skier.
Brookens' hard work earned the senior a spot on the Seattle Sounders women's team, which competes at the highest level of women's soccer in the U.S. This summer, Brookens helped the team defeat the Vancouver Whitecaps for the first time, earning player of the game honors with 16 saves on 28 shots.
"Lisa was awesome," Sounders' coach Dick McCormick said after the game. "Without her performance in goal, we never would have walked away with a win."
A psychology major and aspiring relationship therapist, Brookens spends much of her free time working on campus at the Bringing Baby Home project, which studies the triadic relationship of mother, father, and child.
For now, however, Brookens is focused on succeeding in her senior season, with goals that illustrate her drive and dedication.
"I want to break the shutout record for the season, but I also want to save all the shots that I can save," she says.
With five shutouts and a goals-against average of 0.73 that currently ranks second in UW history, Brookens needs just four more shutouts in the team's final nine games to make her goals a reality. Considering how far she has come - from lobbying for one of four backup positions, to fighting for a handful of precious minutes per season, to success on the collegiate and semi-pro stages - it seems that any goal is within reach.
Brookens may not have intended to play soccer in college, but in so doing, she has become a model of perserverance and dedication in all aspects of life. She values her place as a senior on the team, and credits her teammates' support as an important part of her success.
"Our chemistry this year is awesome," she says. "I am so proud to be on this team, so proud to be a Husky. It is honestly so much more than I've ever dreamed of."
With enough hard work, even the unlikeliest of dreams can someday come true.