When redshirt freshman goalkeeper Miranda Horn played in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, her mother had her repeat a mantra that the goalie still uses today.
“Make a decision and stick with it,” Horn said. “I try to play with that in mind everyday. Don’t hesitate, be confident.”
Horn has helped orchestrate a conference-leading defense for GW this season, recently earning her second A-10 Rookie of the Week honor after holding both Davidson and Richmond scoreless. Horn tied her career-high of six saves against the Spiders, leading to a 2-0 weekend and the first 10-win season for the Colonials since 2003.
Horn ranks first in the conference for keepers who have played at least nine games, leading the league in goals against average and save percentage. She’s allowed 10 goals in 14 games through 1,224 minutes of play.
She has recorded five shutouts, contributing to GW’s seven clean sheets this season.
Horn was tasked with replacing alumna Nicole Ulrick, who last season posted eight shutouts and a .84 goals against average through 18 games.
“[Horn] is great to be on the field with,” sophomore forward and midfielder Kate Elson said. “She is very vocal and has a strong presence. I think she really stepped up this year. I think she had big shoes to fill and she has kept progressing and is doing really well.”
Although it’s Horn’s first year on the pitch defending the net for the Colonials, it is not her first year on the team. She decided to redshirt last season, which allowed her to practice with teammates but not compete. Horn played in games during the team’s spring offseason in preparation for this fall.
“She’s so talented, so we thought, ‘Let’s just save a year,'” head coach Sarah Barnes said. “All spring, she played in games. She was just playing, no pressure, just go play and get better.”
Horn said the redshirt season was crucial for honing her skills, and admitted that she was not quite ready to meet the expectations of collegiate play as a freshman. She worked with GW goalie coach Marla Duncan to further develop at the position.
“I think last year, I came in very ignorant of what was expected,” Horn said. “Spending last year working with Marla really helped me, and going through spring, which was a lot of conditioning, helped me succeed at a really high level.”
Her experience shows not just in her improved skills, but in her savvy as a game manager for the defense. Horn sets up plays and formations for her team on corner kicks: She fielded five in a row against Richmond to close out the game and preserve her shutout.
Barnes said Horn has begun to convert the potential that GW’s coaching staff saw when they recruited the Canadian into big plays and win-preserving saves. Horn is now able to play balls in the air and more skillfully move herself into position.
“She’s gotten so much better at moving her feet to be able to make saves, taking the extra step to extend her range,” Barnes said. “We always knew she had so much potential, but she has really pushed herself and will keep pushing herself, and I believe she has the ability to be the best goalie in the A-10.”
But Horn’s season has not come without its share of tough moments.
On Sept. 14, GW took on Georgetown looking to snap its eight-game losing streak to the District rival and remain undefeated.
In the opening overtime period, Horn came out of the goal to contest a long ball struck by Georgetown junior Marina Paul in the 95th minute. As Horn fought for the loose ball, she was beat by forward Audra Ayotte, who was able to send a pass behind Horn. Forward Crystal Thomas ended the game by tapping the ball into the back of the net.
Horn fell to the ground after watching the game-winner cross the line, and pounded her fist on the grass. She later took a minute to collect herself after an error that cost her the game.
The goalie bounced back following the loss to the Hoyas, with GW since going 5-3-1. As of Saturday, the team sits in fifth place in the conference standings.
“Just like anybody, she has had disappointments and setbacks that have really motivated her. Her determination and persistence have been really good qualities that have helped her,” Barnes said.
Horn, who started playing soccer when she was four years old and began playing competitively when she was eight, is talented with her feet as well as her hands.
She said one of her favorite soccer memories is when she played for a state cup in Canada and the game went to penalty kicks. With the match on the line, Horn both scored the go-ahead goal and saved the game-winning goal.
Horn joked that she wanted to take a shot at the net at the college level, too.
“I’m trying to convince Sarah to let me take one,” Horn said. “But I’ll stick to saving them for now.”
Horn said her first experience with the goalie position wasn’t necessarily by choice. Because of her height (she is listed as 5-foot-10), she said she was “stuck in the net.” After she got comfortable defending the goal, though, Horn said she started to identify with the position and goalkeeping became a “huge part” of her life.
And even after posting impressive numbers in her first year of play, both Barnes and Horn said the sophomore has not hit her ceiling.
“It’s still my rookie year, and I have a lot of time to improve,” Horn said.