By: Matthew Sokol
Senior Alexis Connors is entering her final season with the Campbell women’s soccer team as the current starter between the pipes. The Johns Creek, Georgia native has been with the team for the past four seasons starting back in 2012.
“What I love about her is that she is so focused on being better at the little things,” said Campbell associate head coach Samar Azem.
Mid-way through her final campaign, Connors has stepped up to the challenge of taking Campbell soccer to the next level. As a freshman, Connors started in five of the ten games she appeared in recording a strong 1.37 goals against average recording 41 total saves.
“Working on the smaller things is what it is going to help the team in the long run,” recalls Connors. “Coming to college is a whole different style of play and understanding that style of play while working with the people on the field has helped me get to where I am now.”
Connors started 12 times during her sophomore year logging 34 saves. Then entering her junior year, Connors progress continued as the starter in 15 games where she held a record of 7-3-2 including three shutouts. After only giving up 16 goals, Connors yielded a 1.12 goals against average. For Connors, taking that next step came through communicating her goals in a clear and effective manner.
“It has been a big progress that requires a lot of hard work in training, but it also includes knowing your teammates by communicating well,” said Connors.
Associate head coach Samar Azem recorded five shutouts over her Campbell career. And in a hard-fought 1-0 win over South Carolina State earlier this season, Connors passed her coach on the all-time Campbell ranks for career shutouts. Azem has worked with Connors over her past two years behind the net, and is constantly working during practice to improve her goalkeepers’ craft. But, in fact, Connors is the one most humbled by this experience.
“It was really motivating by passing somebody [Azem] who is successful already, and it makes me excited where I want to keep on working. Doing well is really exciting, and just having this success is motivating in itself knowing that I have put in the hard work.”
Connors has already recorded three shutouts this season, including the season opener at Richmond along with a 2-0 win over Western Carolina University on the road. Her coach has noticed a great transformation in Connor’s game heading into this final season.
“Connors is incredibly hard working, and a lot of people have this perception that goal keepers don’t need to be as fit as other players on the team,” said Azem, while adding, “In the training environment we put our keepers in, we do a lot of repetitive training, and the only way to fine tune those technical and tactical skills is by making sure the keepers are fit, and Connors came in very fit.”
Azem started her career in coaching as an assistant at Brevard College along with stops at Mercer University, Presbyterian College and the head coaching role at Anderson University before joining Campbell’s coaching staff.
As a former goalie herself, Azem has seen some qualities in Connors that she appreciates in her senior goalie.
“Connors is unbelievably quick where she gets off the line real quick,” notes Azem, adding that, “her movement and the ability to move across a goal is so quick that teams are going to have to do something special to score against her.”
Connors is tied for fourth place with Michelle Russell and Jamie Panfil with seven career shutouts in net. The next on the list that Connors is chasing is Ryann Torrero, who earned eight career shutouts as she holds third place in the all-time record books.
“We are going by practice by practice and game by game making sure as we go through the process making sure Connors is getting better,” said Azem. “If that means that the team earns a shutout or if she ends up being first team all-conference, it will come into play because of the works she puts in into become better and stronger while becoming more consistent.”
The Camels return to action this Friday against St. Johns (N.Y.) at 5 p.m. in the Hilton Garden Inn Mayfaire Invitational. Following that match, they will face host UNC Wilmington Sunday at 2:30 p.m.