WOMEN’s SOCCER: Duncan excels in Nellis’ place

Beth Wilberding

When junior forward Allison Nellis was injured on a crisp, October night, women’s soccer coach, Jason Neidell, knew which player would be able to step up and play in Nellis’ place – junior forward Betsy Duncan.

“Betsy’s an integral part of our team,” Neidell said. “She’s been playing great all season.”

Duncan came in for Nellis that evening, Oct. 17, and scored the Lady Toppers’ lone goal of their tie with North Texas.

And since starting the last four games of the season, Duncan has posted two goals and an assist.

But even before being asked to step into Nellis’ spot on the field, Duncan was having a great season.

She scored her first goal of the season against Vanderbilt Sept. 21. And she had a season high two goals Oct. 3 against Austin Peay.

She was second in scoring and third in assists, with five in each category.

Neidell said Duncan deserved to get attention even before she became a regular starter.

“It’s a shame that she gets the spotlight because a player was injured,” Neidell said. “There’s a lot more to a team than the 11 players who start.”

Duncan said she has put more pressure on herself since becoming a starter, even though she hasn’t felt any from the team.

“Filling Allison’s shoes is difficult because she was doing great,” Duncan said. “There’s added pressure to come in for someone who has been injured.”

But Neidell said he didn’t expect Duncan to fill Nellis’ shoes, because Duncan brings so much to the team herself.

“All season long, our team effort is better because Betsy Duncan is on the team,” he said. “She’s energetic at practice and leads the team by example with her work ethic.”

And her work ethic is what drives her during games.

“I go into every game hoping to work hard and play well,” Duncan said. “I think hard work always shows.”

Duncan has provided one-third of a trio of forwards with junior Crystal Chapon and freshman Jenna Silverberg.

Silverberg said Duncan is an asset to the team.

“Betsy brings a whole new intensity to our game,” she said. “She’s full of speed and a powerful player … really aggressive.”

Neidell said the team does some things differently when Duncan is in the game.

When Nellis played, the team would try to get the ball to her, even when she didn’t have much room to work with, he said.

With Duncan in, the team works to get her some space and give her some more room and time.

“Betsy’s the right person to fit in,” Neidell said. “Betsy’s a tenacious competitor.”

And he said its been easy putting Duncan into the starting role because she has been with the team for the past three seasons.

“Her competitiveness drives her,” Neidell said. “It’s that competitiveness that teams need when it’s crunch time.”

Reach Beth Wilberding at [email protected]