by Korey Hope
There are around 400 Division III goalkeepers in the nation, and Whitworth’s senior goalkeeper Kyle Novak had the fourth-best goals against percentage heading into the NCAA Tournamnet at .29. After taking over for all-conference goalkeeper Brian Sherpe, who graduated in 2012, Novak was given the role of starting in goal. However, he had big shoes to fill.
“[Sherpe] certainly was important to our 2009 run to the Elite Eight,” head coach Sean Bushey said. “He was an excellent competitor.”
Sherpe and Novak shared time in the net in 2010, and a study abroad trip to China took Novak from the program in 2011, leaving the bulk of the goalkeeping duties to Sherpe for his senior season. This season, teammates have noticed similarities between the two keepers.
“He makes the saves when we need it, and so did Sherpe,” junior defender Andrew Flint said. “They are both very capable of making saves.”
Novak added Sherpe is one of the most dynamic goalkeepers he has ever known, and takes advantage of learning from him. Sherpe is now a goalkeeper coach for this year’s program.
Bushey said that Novak has always been academically focused, which greatly influencing his decision to study abroad and miss his junior season.
“I knew I had more eligibility after the trip,” Novak said. “So I sat down with Coach and told him how important it was to me.”
Novak met Anthony Clark, a professor in Whitworth’s history department, his freshman year and has stayed close with him throughout his schooling. When Novak heard that Clark would be leading a study abroad trip, he knew it was something he had to consider.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Novak said. “There was nothing like it.”
And now, back for his senior year, Novak has directed a strong Whitworth defense. Bushey said that by making the good decisions in distributing the ball and being aggressive at the right times, Novak eliminates extra work for his defense and the rest of his team.
“He also brings a calm and mature presence with him,” Bushey said. “Which allows himself and others around him to excel.”
Flint, who led the team in minutes played this season, played central defense in front of Novak. Not only does he enjoy the reassurance of having a solid goalkeeper behind him, he also recognizes Novak’s humility.
“He’s very humble,” Flint said. “And his prime focus is on other aspects of the team.”
Novak has noticed that he will be able to take life lessons from his experience in collegiate soccer. Along with responsibility that has been instilled in him by Bushey, Novak noted that maintaining athletic and academic schedules taught him integrity. On top of that, the friends he has made and memories he has shared with teammates are experiences that he will always remember.
“And definitely the camaraderie with the guys on trips is priceless, too,” Novak said.
Contact Korey Hope at email@example.com.