As a true freshman, goalkeeper Sydney Martinez has played in each of the first three regular-season matches for USF women’s soccer. Of those three, she’s played every minute.
On Monday, she was named the AAC goalkeeper of the week after her six-save performance against Baylor last Friday.
“I wasn’t expecting to get that so soon,” Martinez said. “I was expecting to get to that point, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it the first week.”
Despite the conference award and a near-perfect night against Baylor, Martinez said she wasn’t fully confident during the Bulls’ last match.
“Honestly I was so nervous the entire time,” she said. “I thought I was having a mini heart-attack, but I just kept thinking that I had to play for the team and I had to prove myself because I still am a freshman.”
Martinez won the starting job over sophomore Ricquelle Farquharson.
“I think most freshman goalkeepers in the country, this is what they want,” coach Denise Schilte-Brown said. “Imagine coming into a top-25 program and having the opportunity to have an impact on the season.”
For Martinez, it seems as though she’ll continue as the Bulls’ starter if she keeps playing well.
“(Martinez) knows she has to stay on her toes cause (Farquharson) is playing well,” Schilte-Brown said. “But (Martinez) is getting to play. Goalkeeper is one of those jobs where you don’t make a change if things are going well.”
In Martinez’s first game against South Carolina, she earned a save and played the entirety of the exhibition match. Even though it was just practice for the regular season, Schilte-Brown said Martinez was nervous even then.
“I don’t even think she wanted to go in that game,” Schilte-Brown said. “I think she knew the responsibilities and did well that game, but still made a couple nervous mistakes.”
Since that first match, however, Martinez has made clear strides to becoming a better player.
“The next game, she got a little bit better,” Schilte-Brown said. “But then this game, she’s coming out and stepping out of her line and tackling and dribbling and she wants the ball. It’s a really quick growth process with her, she’s gotten a lot better quite quickly.”
In addition to getting better at her position, Martinez has become a better team communicator. The position of goalkeeper involves a lot of conversation between her and the defenders. Sometimes, Martinez said, she’ll be in an awkward position as a freshman directing a senior centerback.
“On the field, it’s nothing,” Martinez said. “But in practice, because they have been here longer, they know what coach wants. So if I tell them one thing, but they know coach wants it a different way, they’ll let me know. But in a game situation, we feed off of each other.”
Like most freshmen, this year is Martinez’s first time away from home. She grew up an only child in Rincon, Ga. Now, she lives with three teammates.
“It’s definitely a big change,” Martinez said. “At home, I had my own space where I could hide out and nobody could bother me and now, in the dorms I have three other girls living with me.”
In her freetime, Martinez and her roommates go to other teammate’s rooms to just hang out. She’s building relationships with her teammates even when they’re off the field.
For Schilte-Brown, Martinez and the way she’s performed so far this season are indicative of how much of an impact she could have on the team in the future.
“She’s very talented and we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Schilte-Brown said. “A goalkeeper is a leadership position, it’s very vocal. As a freshman goalkeeper, we’re not seeing quite what she’s capable of…she’s still getting comfortable, but each game, she’s really growing.”