Sophomore goalkeeper emerges as starter

Kim Imbesi has big shoes to fill this season for the Blue Devils.

The sophomore goalie currently faces the challenge of replacing Duke's former All-American starting goalkeeper Megan Huether. And she has no problem with it.

The 5-foot-6 goaltender and Bridgewater, N.J. native won the starting job in the preseason and has started all four games for the Blue Devils, helping the team jump out to a 4-0 start this season. Imbesi has faced 68 shots and recorded 29 saves so far.

"It's been a very easy adjustment for me," Imbesi said. "Honestly, my teammates have just made it the easiest transition ever. Their confidence allows me to be confident and just very comfortable."

The strong connection between Duke's defensive unit and the goalie has been a key factor in creating a smooth switch this season. The Blue Devils' defense has held opponents to just 71 shots while recording 139 of their own, with 110 of those on goal to their opponents' 55.

"I've been very happy with Kim," head coach Kerstin Kimel said. "I've also been very happy with our defense because I feel like they've done a nice job of limiting what Kim and Regan [Bosch] have had to see in the goal cage and putting them in a position where they can be able to save the ball."

With a defensive unit that lost just one starter after the 2006 season, the team is able to focus on helping that new starter into her role in the cage. Imbesi and the Blue Devils' clear average is more than .800, evidence of the teamwork between the goalie and the rest of the squad.

"We have total confidence in her as a unit, and we know that if we do our job, she's going to come up and do hers," senior defender Meg Ferguson said. "We've been able to play our same aggressive style that has been our signature as a unit in my four years here. I don't think that we've taken a step back or played any more conservative because we have a lot of confidence in Kim's ability."

The goalie herself also feels the support of the team has been a crucial component in her getting accustomed to the new role, especially after sitting a whole season on the bench.

"It was a little bit of an adjustment, playing games again," Imbesi said. "Not having any game experience for a whole year, that was kind of tough.... Over the whole year [the team's] positive feedback has added up and the attitude of 'Hey, we're really confident in you in the cage.' Things like that have really helped me."

Huether had been a long-standing presence in the Duke goal, and Kimel faced a tough choice in the preseason for who would fill the veteran starter's role-Imbesi or the junior, Bosch. Imbesi, a first-team All-America selection in high school, earned the spot in part due to her consistency and ball-handling skills outside the cage after the fall preseason. But Kimel stressed that both are still competing for playing time and need to work on issues of experience.

Imbesi's save percentage of .558 through four games is impressive, and the goalie has earned the respect of her teammates and opponents as well, stepping into the goal with confidence.

"Everyone was looking at us, saying that's going to be a position they're going to need to fill, that's going to be a hole," defender Yani Newton said. "I think that we're showing people that that's not an issue."


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